By Eva Schiller ’21

Robotics is not often in the spotlight, and many members of the Pingry community haven’t heard much about what we do. However, even those who do not know where the robotics room is or those who just assume we make battlebots may have noticed that the robotics team is stepping out into the public eye here at Pingry, starting with our own competition.

After weeks of planning, Pingry hosted its first ever FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics event on October 27. Our event, Bear-ly Built, involved sixteen teams. Two of them were Pingry teams: the veteran team (6069) and the rookie team (14543); both had been designing, building, and coding their robots since the challenge was revealed in September. “Endless hours of hard work have been put into both robots in order to be ready for our first home competition,” says captain Brian Kaplan (VI), who has been guiding underclassmen on both teams along with co-captain Alex Strasser (VI).

The robots were designed for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), which requires teams to build small robots that can perform a series of tasks. During a thirty second autonomous period, robots attempt to lower themselves from a hanging position and perform a few simple activities, all from pre-programmed instructions. Then, for two minutes, two members from each team operate the robot using controllers and attempt to place balls and cubes into a “lander” in the middle of the field. Each match consists of two competing alliances composed of two teams each, and the highest scoring alliance wins.

Both Pingry teams were ultimately very successful; both teams advanced from the qualification rounds. Furthermore, the veteran team, along with its alliance partners, emerged victorious in the finals! However, despite their success, it is still quite early in the season and there is a long way to go. True to the name of the competition, many robots were a bit rough around the edges, but it was still valuable for the students to see other teams and designs. “We are glad to have done well, but we look forward to making further improvements, continuing to grow as a team, and learning more about robotics in the future,” remarked Alex Strasser.

In addition, the competition provided an opportunity for the girls on the team to convene with other girls from the robotics community. As a team of mostly girls, Pingry Robotics hosted a luncheon for New Jersey STEM Girls, an organization that encourages girls interested in science and engineering to share ideas and build relationships. The event, led by Eva Schiller (IV), Monica Chan (IV), Jemma Kushen (IV), Alesia Paliwoda (IV), and Jamie Wang (V), featured a round-table discussion about team sustainability and recruitment. “It was interesting to see how different teams used different strategies to recruit and structure their team,” reflected Monica, a builder and coder for the veteran team.

Overall, through hosting the competition, the robotics team hopes to reach out to the community and raise interest within the student body. “Seeing how well the robotics team has performed recently has really made me aware of how strong the team is,” says Rosemary Collins (IV).

While our robots do not have legs and faces, and unfortunately aren’t battlebots, robotics is still a cutting-edge field that has only recently entered the spotlight. With hard work, determination, and commitment from all team members, Pingry Robotics is ready to take on a bigger role in the community and in the movement towards a more advanced and technologically-oriented world!