Southold/Greenport robotics team earns trip to world championships

Robots whizzed around the arena at Hofstra University last weekend, strategically picking up large yellow cubes and placing them on a scale. The winner would be the team whose robot tipped the scale to its side. 

The matches went on all weekend during the School-Business Partnerships of Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, with teams from different schools battling it out for victory — and a ticket to the world competition in Detroit.

One of those victorious teams was Team RICE 870, comprising students from Southold and Greenport high schools. This is the second time in three years the combined robotics club has earned a spot at the competition.

“The kids are so excited,” said co-mentor Christine Schade said. “They’ll be competing with over 350 teams at Worlds, which is seven or eight times more than at the other regionals. To be able to give the kids that experience is the icing on top of the cake.”

The team members will board a bus after school next Tuesday, and head to Detroit for four days of competition April 25-28.

Team RICE 870 earned its spot by remaining the only undefeated team during qualifiers among 44 competitors at Hofstra, where they also won the Gracious Professionalism Award.

“It’s wonderful, because it shows what kind of kids we have on the team,” Ms. Schade said.

Hofstra was the team’s second regional contest this season. In March, they traveled to the 2018 Greater Pittsburgh regional, where they placed ninth out of 54 teams.

“We anticipate our kids will compete very well,” Ms. Schade said of the upcoming worlds. “I’m very confident in them.”

The team from Southold and Greenport high schools. (Credit: Courtesy photos)

Sophomore Joe Silvestro, who’s a driver and part of the build team on RICE 870, said the team had a vague idea they would be a top competitor, but was still “ecstatic” to receive a wildcard ticket to next week’s championship.

“I am very excited to go to worlds,” he said. “I love the robotics competitions and I wanted to go to the next stage. We put in so much work between the build season, practicing driving and even working on the robot at competiton. The drive/build team puts their heart and soul into this robot and it would’ve been so sad to see the season end at Hofstra.”

This year the world competition is split. Qualifiers from the eastern part of the country will compete in Detroit, while those from the west will head to Houston. Later this summer, the best performers in each group will meet for the final round.

But American teams will also contend with robotics clubs from across the globe. So far this year, Ms. Schade said, Team RICE has already met teams from Turkey and Croatia in regional competition.

Each season the game at the center of the competition changes. After this year’s game was announced in January students had six weeks to design and build a robot that is able to move around a play space, lift the large cubes and place them on the scale.

From that point, the team, assisted by mentors, parents and community members, spent every day after school working on the robot until 10 or 11 p.m. They even stopped in on weekends to finish the robot on time.

During competition, a five-person drive team maneuvers the robot through the challenges.

“We have a good drive team, they’re so talented,” Ms. Schade said. “They’re all friends outside of school, which is always helpful. They’re incredibly talented and when it comes to competitions we are all super-confident in the whole robotics team.”

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