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Robotics teams rock Staples in tourney tuneup

Updated 10:47 am, Wednesday, January 8, 2014

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  • Evan Barnet signals the start of a match Saturday during a robotics competition at Staples High School sponsored by the Staples PTA and the local ìi squaredî robotics team. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Evan Barnet signals the start of a match Saturday during a robotics competition at Staples High School sponsored by the Staples PTA and the local ìi squaredî robotics team. Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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The rock 'em, sock 'em fun of robotics made for a rollicking Saturday at Staples High School.

The "i squared" robotics team hosted a fundraising robotics competiton for robots designed and made by 12 teams of high school students from around the state. The team raised over $1400 for the Staples PTA Technology Fund at the event.

The "scrimmage" was a practice for qualifying competitions in advance of two statewide tourneys.

"It's designed to be a high school competition, but there is no lower age limit," said Ellen McDonnell of Greenwich, who was emcee for the event.

This year's state robotics championship will again be hosted by Greens Farms Academy in March.

"Some schools have a robotics class," McDonnell said, "and it's actually part of their schedule."

This friendly competition was an "alliance event," which meant two teams deployed their robots simultaneously against two others.

"Part of the proceeds of today are going to toward an engineering classroom," said Catalina Salas, Staples PTA co-president.

"We're hoping to raise $10,000," she said of the full goal. "We're close to halfway there."

Parents and participators alike praised not only the range of skills that are fostered through the robotics teams, but also the emphasis on working together.

"I like working together to sort of think about a problem," said Madeline Schemel, 16, of Westport, a member of the Wreckers Robotics team.

"I like having to think creatively," she said, solving challenges as they arise.

"It's super," parent Anna Crosby of Woodbridge. "He has learned the skills that we don't touch on in school," she said of her son. "He's learned to prepare himself for the real world."

Skills the student-competitors learn include not only science and engineering specifics, but marketing and interpersonal skills.

"He's learned to be part of a team as well," she said.

"It's so cool," said Pam Barnet, who heads the Connecticut state affiliates for the nonprofit FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which is the organizing body of the robotics competitions that culminate in an annual international event.

She said part of the philosophy involves "gracious professionalism," which encourages the teens not to just help teammates, but all those involved. "That's the motto of U.S. FIRST -- it's all about teaching each other."

Sage Vouse, 16, of Westport, recently joined the Wreckers Robotics team, and is glad she did.

"One of my favorite parts is sort of seeing something come together," she said. "It takes effort, but effort's all it takes."

The Staples PTA is continuing its fundraising. Tax-deductible contributions can be made online at http://bit.ly/1hvynto, or by check sent to "SHS PTA -- TFI," c/o Susan Stefenson 5 Barn Swallow Drive, Westport, CT 06880.