Photograph courtesy of Debby Serrano

RPHS Robotics Team Qualifies For National Championship

The Roselle Park High School (RPHS) Robotics Team – also known as Park Robotics – qualified and, hopefully, are on their way to the Teacher-Student Association VEX National Championship in Texas. That is an accomplishment in and of itself when you consider that RPHS is not a technology or engineering high school. Still, support from the community is needed to get there.

More on that in a little bit.

First, a bit of history.

Park Robotics has come a long way to get to where it is today, and in just two years. Mr. Seibert, one of the two teachers involved in the team, recounted, “This year, we were able to compete at a much higher level due to the dedication of our students and the support of faculty, administration, peers, and parents. As a second year team we are very lucky to have competed at such a high level.”

Luck might have something to do with it, but it is not the only thing.

Starting from a grant that was applied for and awarded by NASA in January of 2014, the RPHS Robotics Team came in at 7:15 in the morning everyday during competition to work on their robotic creations and stay after school till 5 or 6 at night – and still do their homework and other responsibilities. They spent countless hours brainstorming, designing, building, and coding; trying, failing, trying again and again and never giving up until the pieces of steel took shape and came to life. Over time, all that hard work and dedication paid off.

In December of 2014, they were semi-finalists in the Team Challenge of the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC) at Ranney School. Then, a little over a month later on January 17th of this year, Park Robotics not only reached the semi-finals level again in the Team Challenge but also took first place in the Programming Skills Challenge; this qualified them for the New Jersey State Championship in Cherry Hill. Later, on the last day of January, at the South Brunswick VRC Event, they once again were semi-finalists for the Team Challenge and, once again, took first place for the Programming Skills Challenge.

Then, just this month on May 2nd, at the New Jersey Technology Student Association Competition, Park Robotics came in 3rd overall for the Team Challenge and took 2nd place in the Driver Skills Challenge.

Those achievements landed them a spot to go to the Nationals in Texas at the end of June.

The team of 25 from a small town in New Jersey consisting of 19 young men and 6 young women – mostly sophomores but also freshmen, juniors, and seniors – led by two teachers have a chance to make it to the Nationals. And to think, it all started with 9 students just a year ago.

Remember, this is just Roselle Park.

Now, remove one word to show the pride.

This is Roselle Park.

With a chance to compete on the national stage in sight, the opportunity for the community to take part in it – however small – is available. Due to limited funding and being that the team is so new, contributions are being ask for in order to defray the expenses to go to the National Championship. A GoFundMe page has been started (link) and already the team is a third of the way to their goal of $3,000. Every bit helps, be it $5 or $25 or $100. Every dollar is a step closer, not only to the Nationals, but to supporting the future of Roselle Park Robotics. Any funds raised beyond the goal (or on the off chance that the goal is not reached), those donations will be used to purchase equipment and parts for future robots.

RPHS parent Debby Serrano understands how important technology and engineering are to the future of a child’s education. She commented, “I would recommend the STEM programs to other parents. I didn’t know anything about the program until I encouraged my son to take a technology class. This is where we met Mr. Chin, a young energetic teacher who really inspired my son. It wasn’t long until my son told me he wanted to pursue Engineering. I attend every competition and really see a bright group of kids guided by two wonderful teachers, Mr. Seibert and Mr. Chin.”

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and is a high school program designed to emphasize the importance of the sciences not only to education but the future since it is estimated that 80% of jobs created in the next decade will require math and science skills. It invests in the future with its programs today.

Investing in the future is basically what education is when you think about it. It gives students the opportunities to go places and do things they never thought they could do if they just try. From applying for a grant that might not have been awarded – it was – to building robots that might not have worked – they do – to having a young new team take part in competitions that they might not have won – they did – to possibly making it all the way to the Nationals – they might – with just a little support from Roselle Park.

Anyone interested in donating can visit the Roselle Park Robotics GoFundMe page (link).

The VEX National Championship will be from June 28th – July 2nd at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center about a half hour northwest of Dallas, Texas.

Photograph courtesy of Debby Serrano