By Warwick Valley Central School District Superintendent Dr. David Leach
A trio of Warwick Valley Middle School students excelled at a regional robotics tournament, despite being the youngest team to compete.
Aiden Woods, Kalen Luraschi, and Sawyer Masefield, all eighth graders and long-time pals, were among 28 teams invited to the Hudson Valley Regional Championships of the First Tech Challenge Robotics Challenge, which took place on Feb. 11 at Pace University. They named their team TACA, an acronym for Total and Complete Amateurs and a nod to their young ages.
“We knew we’d be the youngest, but we didn’t want to wait,” said Sawyer. “This way we have a head start for when we get to high school.”
Teams of students are challenged to code, design, build, program, and operate robots, which then go head-to-head at the event, showcasing the robots’ capabilities. Guided by coaches, teams develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles including innovation and collaboration.
“It’s sort of a wrestling match for robots,” said Aiden.
Guided by their coach, Aiden’s dad, Paul Woods, it took the team months to build their robot, working together after school and on weekends to get it done. The Amateurs had earned their spot at Regionals after their success at the FIRST Tech Qualification Tournament in Peekskill. FIRST – “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” – is a national nonprofit which advances science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among children.
“Our robot is like a box with an arm,” said Kalen, “But way more complicated than that.”
Of the 28 teams that competed at Regionals, the Amateurs placed 11th. The team also won First Place in the Connect Award category for community outreach.
“We had to build our team brand and raise money,” said Aiden. They promoted TACA at the Farmers’ Market, he said, and they networked with the local computing and engineering community.
“The competition was supposed to empower kids to do something,” said Kalen. “And it really did.”
Each week, Warwick Valley Central School District Superintendent Dr. David Leach shines the “The Superintendent’s Spotlight” on one of Warwick Valley’s amazing students in Warwick NY. “Superintendent’s Spotlight” features students who reach goals, face challenges, and are role models to their peers.