Northeast Times

Wired up

  • Robotic pride: From left, St. Hubert students Alanna Rosado, Mary Shustack, Caitlin Conn, Maura Mullin and Cortney Schaaf, all 17, are part of the school’s robotics team. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • Alanna Rosado (left) and Mary Shustack hold up awards the team won with their robot built from scratch. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

When Alanna Ros­ado was a fresh­man at all-girls St. Hubert High School, she learned that all-boys Fath­er Judge wel­comed Bam­bies to join its ro­bot­ics team.

“I figured it was in­ter­est­ing. I nev­er heard of a club that in­volved ro­bots,” she said. “I was really fas­cin­ated with all the things I learned.”

Alanna spent two years with Judge’s ro­bot­ics team. When an Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia blue rib­bon com­mis­sion re­com­men­ded in Janu­ary 2012 that St. Hubert close, she made plans to choose a new school, prob­ably Little Flower.

In the end, money raised by the St. Hubert com­munity and pledged by sev­er­al wealthy in­di­vidu­als saved St. Hubert and the oth­er three high schools sched­uled to close. When school re­sumed in Septem­ber, new St. Hubert pres­id­ent Frank Far­rell es­tab­lished a ro­bot­ics team at the school. Phys­ics and math teach­er Wayne Flood agreed to be the mod­er­at­or. And Alanna was a nat­ur­al choice as cap­tain.

The year in­cluded sev­er­al com­pet­i­tions, with the high­light be­ing a trip to a ro­bot­ics na­tion­al cham­pi­on­ship com­pet­i­tion in St. Louis hos­ted by a non­profit group called FIRST— For In­spir­a­tion and Re­cog­ni­tion of Sci­ence and Tech­no­logy.

ldquo;That was amaz­ing. It was a once-in-a-life­time ex­per­i­ence,” Alanna said.

Far­rell is a big fan of ro­bot­ics. His daugh­ter Han­nah, now a col­lege stu­dent, par­ti­cip­ated in a ro­bot­ics club at Mount St. Joseph.

“It mo­tiv­ates, en­cour­ages and gives them con­fid­ence to do math and sci­ence ap­plic­a­tion work,” he said.

The St. Hubert ro­bot­ics team re­ceived a big boost from NASA, which provided a $6,500 grant.

Provid­ing ment­or­ship were Han­nah Far­rell and Mike O’Re­illy, a gradu­ate of Somerville, N.J.’s Im­macu­lata High School, where former St. Hubert pres­id­ent Sis­ter Mary Smith serves as prin­cip­al.

Dur­ing the year, the Bam­bieBotz of­ten worked six-day weeks, stay­ing late on week­days and get­ting to­geth­er on Sat­urdays.

After learn­ing the ba­sics and build­ing a ro­bot, the team entered a com­pet­i­tion at Spring­side Chest­nut Hill Academy. The Bam­bieBotz fin­ished 13th among 32 teams.

“For a rook­ie team, that was very good,” said ju­ni­or Maura Mul­lin.

An­oth­er com­pet­i­tion fol­lowed at Seneca High School in New Jer­sey, with the team peak­ing at the Mid-At­lantic Re­gion­al at Le­high Uni­versity from April 11-13.

Teams pro­gram their ro­bot to per­form pre­scribed tasks. In this case, the ro­bots needed to fire fly­ing discs in­to tar­gets that have dif­fer­ent point val­ues. The ro­bots are built from a com­mon kit of parts provided by FIRST. They typ­ic­ally weigh 120 to 150 pounds.

Matches last for two minutes and 15 seconds, and St. Hubert emerged as the re­gion­al cham­pi­on in the Rook­ie All-Star di­vi­sion.

“We were all really shocked, happy and ex­cited,” said ju­ni­or Mary Shus­tack.

Then, the hard part began.

The na­tion­al com­pet­i­tion was set for April 24-27, and the Bam­bieBotz needed to pay their way to St. Louis.

“We had a week to raise $15,000,” Maura Mul­lin said.

The team re­ceived plenty of help. Mid-At­lantic Ro­bot­ics covered the $4,000 entry fee. The St. Hubert alum­nae as­so­ci­ation donated $3,500. Oth­ers donors in­cluded Fath­er Judge, the Ma­jor Artery Re­vital­iz­a­tion Com­mit­tee, Friends to Elect Christine Tartagli­one and the North­east Op­tim­ist Club. The girls held a bake sale and made pleas through Face­book and Twit­ter.

The fi­nal tally was $16,500, with the ex­tra $1,500 to be used for next year’s team.

“We pulled through like we saved the school,” said ju­ni­or Cort­ney Schaaf. “We had fam­ily, friends and people we didn’t even know donat­ing.”

A dozen girls — 11 ju­ni­ors and a fresh­man — made the trip to St. Louis. They were joined by Flood, O’Re­illy, Frank and Han­nah Far­rell and the moth­er of a team mem­ber. They shared a bus with Spring­side Chest­nut Hill Academy.

Among 105 schools, St. Hubert placed 69th. The Bam­bieBotz were fourth among rook­ie teams.

“The girls learned so much more in four days than they could ever get from an in­di­vidu­al com­pet­i­tion,” Frank Far­rell said.

Flood was im­pressed with how the first year went and is look­ing for­ward to the second. He noted that the girls had to ap­ply math for­mu­las, use tools, raise money, ob­tain alu­min­um and con­vert a classroom in­to a work­shop.

“It was a little bit of everything,” he said. “The kids get a lot out of it. It’s really hands on. It’s hard to put the parts to­geth­er, es­pe­cially if you’ve nev­er op­er­ated a saw or drill. It was nice for them to see how it all comes to­geth­er. And we want to sus­tain it.”

FIRST began mod­estly in 1989. The Manchester-based group held its first com­pet­i­tion in 1992, when 28 teams gathered in a New Hamp­shire high school gym. Many For­tune 500 com­pan­ies now donate to FIRST, which has grown tre­mend­ously in the last two dec­ades.

The most re­cent com­pet­i­tion at­trac­ted about 10,000 stu­dents ages 6-18 from 37 coun­tries. The ven­ue was the Ed­ward Jones Dome, home of the St. Louis Rams foot­ball team.

“It was so much fun at the com­pet­i­tion. Every­body was so pumped up,” said ju­ni­or Caitlin Conn.

“It was four times the size of any oth­er com­pet­i­tion we were in,” Maura Mul­lin said. “At the com­pet­i­tion, every­body helped each oth­er.”

Next year, the Bam­bieBotz mem­bers are look­ing for­ward to hav­ing a ro­bot­ics class taught by Flood. Mary Shus­tack said Flood is a good mo­tiv­at­or and that the class will help build the team.

“Ro­bot­ics teaches you wir­ing, pro­gram­ming and how to work with people,” she said. “We learned a lot and want to get back to Mis­souri.”

The Bam­bieBotz were buoyed by the ex­per­i­ence and are look­ing for­ward to an­oth­er good year of com­pet­i­tion.

“I loved it,” Cort­ney Schaaf said. “Some of the teams go all out. We were all root­ing each oth­er on. I was amazed how good some of the ro­bots are. That gave us a lot of point­ers for next year. We want to be big­ger and bet­ter.” ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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