Great Neck South HS wins safety award in LI robotics competition

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With their safety goggles on, and determination in their hearts, students from the Great Neck South High Robotics “Rebels” team took home the Underwriters Laboratory Industrial Safety Award for the third consecutive year in the School-Business Partnerships of Long Island First Robotics Competition at Hofstra University last Saturday.

The Rebels placed 43rd overall in the competition, which challenges teams of students and their mentors to design and build a 130-pound robot in six weeks using a standard “kit of parts” and a common set of rules.

The results of the Long Island Regionals ended the Rebel’s chances for a shot at the national title, but excitement was still evident in the voice of team spokesman Jacob Roth.

“We won the underwriters safety award for the 3rd year in a row, and no other team has ever won it even two years in a row,” Roth said.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t win a spot in nationals, but we are still happy.”

The underwriters award recognizes the team that progressed beyond safety fundamentals by using innovative ways to eliminate or protect against hazards.

Last Saturday was the final day in the regional tournament, which spanned three days, consisting of more than 47 teams in total from all over Long Island, Staten Island and New Jersey.

The David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex at Hofstra was filled with a crowd of more than a thousand enthusiastic spectators on Saturday, showing their excitement as they energized the room with cheers, while watching the robotics teams compete in a series of elimination rounds.

The competition, known as “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition,” is a national program

After six weeks, teams are required to submit their projects and are unable to view it again until the week of competition. Each team received their kit on January 8.

In 1999, SBPLI founded Long Island FIRST for the purpose of developing a regional robotics competition. The Long Island Regional has grown from eight teams (school districts) in 1999 to over 47 teams in 2011.

Safety is a major theme in the competition, with Roth calling it “paramount” to the advisor that they always win the safety award.

“He has made it his mission to always make sure the team wins the safety award every year, as a minimum,” Roth said.

Rebels’ advisor John Motchkavitz, who is the head the business and technology department at Great Neck South High, said the team’s emphasis on safety is an outgrowth of their sponsor, the Great Neck Fire Company.

“The Great Neck Fire Company helps sponsor the team and with their help we made sure every member of the team was trained in AED, CPR, and first aid,” said Motchkavitz.

“The robot is a tool to teach camaraderie,” Motchkavitz said. “The process that goes into this is key.”

Motchkacitz has been the team advisor for the last four years. The robotics club, and class both were started on the same year. Students can take the robotics class as an elective beginning their junior year and take it again the following year.

The number of robotics classes offered at Great Neck South has increased to three since its first inception four years ago.

The competition also helps develop future skills for students looking to go into the engineering field.

“What you learn through competition helps you learn about teamwork.” Roth commented. “It’s extremely vital.”

Motchkavitz agreed, adding “About 90 percent of these kids go into the engineering and industrial fields, and architecture.

“Overall this was a positive experience,” said Roth. “It makes me feel like I’m part of something that matters.”

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