TOMS RIVER – Four Toms River schools took part in a unique robotics competition on Jan. 21, that had families, friends, instructors, and robot enthusiasts filling the RWJBarnabas Health Arena.
Competing in the Jersey Shore Showdown FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), Intermediate North’s Cyber Fins, High School East’s Raiders-Short Circuits, High School North’s Iron Mariners, and High School South’s Voltrons brought pride to the Toms River community and practiced gracious professionalism during the competition.
FIRST – For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology – is an international youth organization that inspires young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators.
The FTC event brought in 30 teams from all over the state. In an FTC, students develop STEAM skills, practice engineering principles, practice good sportsmanship, work as a team, help others, and learn the value of hard work and dedication
The FTC presented a mid-level robotics competition for kids in grades 7-12, where students are challenged to design, build, and program a robot to play a game against other team’s robotic creations. The Toms River students were gracious hosts to the 26 other schools at the event, demonstrating excellent collaborative skills by working together and even helping the other teams.
Some members of the High School South Voltrons, and one member of the High School North Iron Mariners received an award for “Best Example of Alliance Teamwork” for showing exceptionally good character in this way.
“It was a gratifying experience to see the collaboration and professionalism that took place between students and staff in the RWJBarnabas Health Arena,” said John Raffaele, a HSS Voltron team co-advisor. “Toms River really did an extraordinary job perpetuating what these competitions represent.”
According to the district’s Supervisor of Educational Technology Tiffany Lucey, the robotics teams were formed out of student interest and excitement from Jersey Shore Makerfest and they have been engaging in this competition for the past three years. Lucey has been a co-organizer of the event since its inception along with Assistant Superintendent Marc Natanagara.
“There are many college scholarships available to students who participate in clubs and activities that focus on STEAM and robotics,” she said. “Colleges and universities look closely at students who have participated in these challenging events because they realize the dedication and hard work that goes into successfully participating in a competition such as the FIRST Tech Challenge.”
The robotics teams, which rely on fundraising and grants to purchase new, useful equipment, have been given grants and sponsorships from FIRST, Staples, The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, Navair, Commvault, Ocean Salons, Olive Garden, Coldwell Banker Flanagan Realty, Itooz, Big Diehl’s, 2 Million & Change, Airgraphix, OPM Lawn and Landscaping, and Atmos-Tech, alongside parent, student, and community support and volunteering.
“It was a proud moment for our district to have four teams be a part of this recent FIRST Tech Challenge and I believe we are just getting started,” said Suzanne Signorelli, co-advisor of the HSE Raiders-ShortCircuits.
For those interested in joining one of the teams, volunteering their time, or sponsoring a Toms River team, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.