After winning the New York City regional robotics challenge alongside two other New Jersey high schools, the 20 members of the QVTHS RoboTigers were invited to participate in the country’s first robotics national competition, but the under-funded team may not be able to afford to fly down to Atlanta where the championships are being held.
Students who compete in the international challenge are assigned a task, and teams ranging from 20 to 60 students must design and build a robot that can accomplish the given task.
This year, the task was to build a machine that could pick up an 18-inch ball and put it in a bin. The simplicity of the assignment is undermined by the fact that the actions were performed in a competitive environment, with two teams of three robots competing to collect the most balls. The competition element requires that teams build sturdy, quick, and smooth-running robots, all within a six-week timeframe.
The RoboTiger’s robot used a conveyor method that grabbed the ball with a pulley system and brought into a small storage bin, where, after the robot was navigated to the larger bin, the ball was released. According to Anthony Ali, vice-principal of QVTHS and the RoboTigers’ staff advisor, their design was not an unusual one. “It was a common design, but our pulley system used chains, whereas many of the other ones used a belt,” he said.
The RoboTigers, having formed an alliance with two New Jersey high schools, won the regional tournament and the opportunity to compete in the nationals.
“We are the first New York City public school to win the regional round,” said Ali. Another point of pride is the fact that the school’s team, at 20 members, is one of the smallest teams that participated in the competition.
“I'm proud that kids from New York City public schools are able to compete at the highest levels,” said Councilman Eric Gioia, who has helped the team get funding. “Getting a chance to represent your school, borough and city at an international competition is the chance of a lifetime, and we wish the RoboTigers good luck in Atlanta.”
Though they have secured their place at the championship level, the QVTHS robotics team has not secured a means of getting to Atlanta or a place to stay while there. The funding for the team was certainly enough to build the best robot in New York City, but the team is seeking an additional $18,000 to bring the entire team to the competition.
In order to acquire that hefty sum, the team has been fundraising with a passion previously only on display during the creation of ball-lifting robots. Members of the team have been selling “RoboTigers” t-shirts, held a traditional bake sale, and participated in a promotion with the nearby McDonalds, and while they have raised a substantial amount of money, they are still $4,000 short, and may find themselves with an even larger financial gap, due to rising airline fares.
“I’m negotiating with the airlines to see if we can get rates comparable to two weeks ago, when we made our initial budget,” said Ali.
The robotics team and their coach remain hopeful that they will be able to compete with all the other regional winners in Atlanta, but even if they aren’t Ali is happy with what the team has learned already.
“Studying robotics gives the students a lot of experience with team work,” he said. “It teaches them how to program, how to build, and how to troubleshoot. They get an idea of what the world of engineering is really all about, and they realize that they really like it.”
To make a donation to the Queens Vocational and Technical High School’s Robotics Club, send a check addressed to Robotics Club to 37-02 47th Avenue, Long Island City, NY, 11101. Checks must be received by April 14.