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Battle of the Robots: North Salem vs. Somers

SOMERS, N.Y. - The Kennedy High School robotics team met the North Salem team for a fight to the finish in the Kennedy cafeteria on Saturday morning. Joe Higham, a parent and mentor of the Kennedy team said, “These clubs are part of First Tech Challenge.” FTC is a not-for-profit organization founded by inventor/entrepreneur Dean Kamen in 1989 to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders.

“Kamen saw kids were exposed to rock stars and sports figures and wrapped in competitiveness. He wanted to set a different role model.

“There are four robots in a match," he explained. "It’s two against two. The kids get rated on many different things; cooperation, courtesy, sportsmanship, competition, many things. They keep detailed notebooks and they get marked on those, too. Parents feel the kids are learning a lot of real-life stuff.”

Deborah Lubitz, a parent/organizer of the North Salem team gave further details. “The robotics club is not affiliated with the school but it is supported by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Coalition). Each team builds one robot. It has to fit into an 18-inch cube.”

“We keep redesigning and adding and changing the robot,” said her 9th grade son, Daniel. “I like the building and the engineering and that there are many different ways to score points. Right now we’re adding more scoops to our robot so it can pick up more balls.” Daniel’s grandfather, an engineer, was there to cheer the team on.

The competition at Kennedy High was basically a practice session. The big tournament is coming up on January 29 at the Pace University campus in Pleasantville. At that event, clubs will partner in teams of two, trying for the strongest combination.

Parent/mentor Howard Cohen of the Kennedy team said, “We’re hoping that instead of Lady Gaga, Steve Jobs will be their next role model.”

Fourteen-year-old Laurel Higham, who plans to go into “programming” because she “likes building and technology,” added that her role model is “Phil McKinney,” the chief of technology at Hewlitt-Packard. Asked about the future she replied, “Phil is retiring at the end of the month, so his job will be open.”

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