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Thursday, 14 March 2019 12:49

Rockin' Robotics

Photos by SuperSource Media, LLC.

SCHUYLERVILLE - Schuylerville students represented their independent robotics team at the regional FIRST Robotics Competition held at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute March 9 and 10.

FIRST, which stands for, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology was founded in 1989 with a mission to encourage students to enter STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) related fields. At the beginning of each season, the teams register to join the competitions where they are given a task, which the robot they design will be required to accomplish. The teams spend about six weeks programming, constructing, and marketing their design until their deadline, when they will bag and seal their creations until the day of the competitions.

The Schuylerville robotics team, the Steel Stallions began in 2011 by its founders Kevin and Betty Gifford. Kevin Gifford, the head mentor turned the reigns over to Todd Kehley, who has a nine-year Naval background working with nuclear power and, has a vested interest in the program.

“My son, when he was going to school at Schuylerville, decided that he wanted to get involved with the team…I decided that it was something I wanted to do with my son."

For students looking for a space where they can be a part of a team, many seek out sports such as football or hockey. But for some that void can be filled by joining another cultivating team activity; the robotics team.
“A lot of the kids that are involved in this program end up being kids that don’t typically end up with an interest in sports or anything like that,” said Kehley. “It does put them in that team situation they wouldn’t normally have that unless they were into sports.”
Each student has a different interest and different strengths regarding building, programming or promotions. The students are primarily driving their seasons and work, while Kehley oversees the processes and any upgrades.
This year, the Steel Stallions placed 32, out of 36 teams including teams from New Jersey, Brazil, and Canada. According to Kehley, their placement does not attest to their capabilities or how well they did. This year at the competition, some last-minute changes proved to be very costly in regard to their placement.
Unlike many other teams, Schuylerville’s robotics team is not embedded in the school extracurriculars beyond the recruitment of students and home school students in the district. Their practice facility is in the basement of the American Legion in Schuylerville.
“We operate independently of the school. We do have that school connection as far as recruiting…as far as facilities go, or event funding, we don’t really get anything from the school,” said Kehley.
In order to compete in this competition, the Steel Stallions had to raise $5,000. Without school funding, the team and their mentor earn funds to run the program through fundraisers such as their annual Spaghetti Dinner, which will be hosted at Schuylerville Elementary on April 12.
For more information on Schuylerville robotics, or how to get involved, you can visit their Facebook page, FRCTEAM4508.
Published in Sports
Thursday, 22 March 2018 13:54

Waldorf Students Take Over the World

[Photos provided]

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Every year during the final half of February, each high school junior at Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs participates in an internship that helps them to explore a profession they have an interest in, near and far from home, for at least a week.

“At the end of the experience, they will not only have a jump on their resume, but they will have gained soft skills and a selfknowledge that will serve them for life,” said Jennifer Dempsey, communications director, in a press release.

In the beginning of the school year, every junior is required to research a professional field of their choice, which includes exploring their own strengths and interests, interviewing professionals in their chosen field, and securing and completing their internship. Each student concluded their experience with a public presentation about their experience. The juniors traveled far and wide for their internships; Elliot Sabatella interned at the UK Ministry of Defence, Bristol, UK; several students spent time in Massachusetts; Kathleen Rembish interned at Nicole Miller, an iconic fashion designer, in New York City; Julie Stuart shadowed EMTs at the Saratoga Springs City Fire Department, and beyond.

Laura Howe chose to learn about music therapy in two different settings: Wildwood School in Schenectady, where she worked with individuals on the Autism spectrum, and The Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where she learned about occupational therapy and speech therapy. Howe worked under Caitlin Hyaat at The Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and at Wildwood she shadowed Mark Ahola.

“I don’t know if I would say I preferred Spaulding over Wildwood, but I know that I really liked being in the hospital setting because there were co-treatments, so you could have different therapists in the room, and I really enjoyed that variety,” Howe explained.

Jacob Valmore cut his internship time between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and NASA. Valmore explored the field of engineering at RPI and shadowed engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Center in Maryland.

“At NASA I saw a lot of the rigs that they use to test the space telescope that they just sent off to Houston, which was cool, and I got to the see the biggest clean room in the world where they built the spacecraft. At RPI, the coolest thing I did was fire up the wind tunnel, I’d never done that before,” Valmore said.

“It’s really cool experience that we’re given at Waldorf,” Howe said.

Published in Education

SARATOGA COUNTY – Two local robotics teams stole the show at a recent regional competition, paving the way for their trips to the national level in April.

Robotics club teams from the Ballston Spa and Schuylerville school districts competed at the NY Tech Valley FIRST Robotics competition, a regional division of the FIRST Robotics Competition, an international youth event designed to give student practical engineering experience.  Each school put in strong work at the competition, which ran from March 16-18 at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with Ballston Spa receiving the prestigious Chairman’s Award, and Schuylerville finishing in second place and putting up the highest score of the weekend during the quarterfinals, 450 points.  Both teams will be competing at the national championships in St. Louis, MO, which will run from April 26-29.

At the regional competition, teams were challenged to design and build robots that could receive and place gears, fire wiffle balls, and climb five feet.  Each challenge would net the teams a certain amount of points, and it was up to the teams which actions they designed their machines to specialize in.  Ballston Spa chose to design a robot that could do all three actions, with club advisor and coach Darrel Ackroyd being particularly proud of the machines ability to place gears by itself.

We can receive gears from the human player station and place the gear on the peg via an active placement of the gear,” Ackroyd said.  “Most teams have a passive gear system where the pilot has to pull the gear out of the robot.”

Schuylerville, on the other hands, chose to focus on gear-placing and climbing, as they determined that shooting wiffle balls would be too difficult to design for, and would not yield as many point as the other challenges.

Every team competing in the FIRST Robotics competition was informed of the challenges they would face in January, and then had six weeks to design and build the robot they would take to the competition.  After that, their machine had to be submitted, or “bagged and tagged,” so that they could not utilize it again before the competition weekend.  Both teams, however, built practice robots at the same time as their competition robots, so that they could continue practicing after the six week time limit. 

“Our robot performed incredibly and we won quarterfinals,” Ackroyd said about his team’s performance.  “We came up short in semi finals, but our alliance with Cambridge and Troy was a great one to be apart of in eliminations.”

“I couldn’t have ask for anymore,” said Mark Belden, advisor and coach for the Schuylerville team.  “We’re not a big team, but we went right out there.  Our team, our mentors, our alliance partners… it went as well as I could’ve expected.”

This will be Ballston Spa’s third time competing at the national level, and their second time in a row, having made it to the finals at RIT last year.  This will also be Schuylerville’s second year in a row competing at nationals.  Neither team has won at that level, but they are hopeful heading into the event. 

We are making changes to our climber and gear mechanism for our competition this weekend at Rockland County,” Ackroyd said.  “I feel with these changes we should be a top-performing robot at the competition”

“We’re feeling really good,” Belden said.  “Some other teams we competed against have already gotten in touch with us with suggestions.”

Schuylerville is currently raising money to help fund their trip to St. Louis.  Belden estimates that it will cost around $20,000 to transport the team.  They will be hosting a spaghetti dinner and raffle to help raise funds on March 31 in the elementary school cafeteria, from 5-8 p.m.  Donations can also be made directly at www.gofundme.com/schuylerville-robotics-team-4508.

Published in Education