BY VICTORIA CARUSO
The Wheatley Cybercats 2872, the Wheatley School’s robotics team, took first place at the Half Hollow Hills FIRST Robotics Invitational this month. The competition was the first one to be held in two years as a result of COVID-19.
“It was a great win for our program,” said Patrick Hurley, the team’s adviser. “It’s also a great win for the community and the alumni that are now often pursuing all different kinds of STEM career paths in college.”
The FIRST Robotics Competition is an annual international competition, designed to get students excited about STEM and inspire them to become future scientists, innovators and leaders of society. Seventeen teams from across Long Island participated in the regional Half Hollow Hills FIRST Robotics Invitational.
Much like a sporting event, the competition consists of a series of tasks — like launching balls into a hoop — that students controlling the robots must race to complete. Students around the world start strategizing on how to build a robot that can best perform these tasks in early January when FIRST announces the game.
“Here is our pre-pandemic robot,” said Hurley, pointing to the prize-winning, R2D2-inspired bot that was showcased at last Monday’s Board of Education Meeting.
“Unfortunately, for the last two years we were shut down, so this was the first time that we were able to showcase our skills and what this robot can do.”
The competition marked the Wheatley Cybercat robotic team’s first major win. But Shawn Khillian, the team’s code captain, pointed out that the FIRST program is about more than just competing.
“I was completely new when I moved here in ninth grade, and I found a family within this club,” he said. “I want to be able to open that up to more people.”
At the Board of Education meeting, Khillian and Matthew Temkin, the team’s build captain, presented a plan to introduce robotics to younger students in the district. They proposed introducing a FIRST Lego League Junior team — a presentation-based, Lego version of the robotics program — at Northside Elementary School. The plan also included bringing the FIRST Tech Challenge to Willets Road School. Khillian described this challenge as an “intermediary between the FIRST Robotics Challenge and the FIRST Lego League.”
“There’s a lot to be gained,” said Khillian, who started off with Lego robotics when he was 8 years old. “This community has a great STEM initiative … and I think that robotics is the perfect way to outlet it.”
The Wheatley Cybercats 2872 will be competing next at Hofstra University on March 21.