Huntington Robotics Reaches World Championships

Huntington Robotics is headed to the world championships in St. Louis.

April 5, 2017

Huntington High School’s robotics team is headed to the FIRST world championships in St. Louis after winning the Engineering Inspiration Award at last weekend’s Long Island regional competition at Hofstra University. NASA will cover the Blue Devils’ $5,000 entry fee.

“I’m so proud of the team and I’m extremely excited to return to the world championships in St. Louis to compete,” said senior Jacob Strieb, captain of Huntington Robotics. “Attending the world championships two years in a row is almost unheard of in the world of FIRST robotics, let alone for a team that is only in its fourth season. I could not be happier with how everything has turned out and I can’t wait to compete for the title of world champion at the next level of competition.” The world championships will be held in late April at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Coached by Brian Reynolds, Omar Santiago and Ed Parry, Huntington Team 5016 ranked a strong 18th out of 55 teams after the first day of competition at last weekend’s regional finals. The event had all the ingredients of a championship game, with thousands of fans packing the arena, rocking music, a large scoreboard and flamboyant master of ceremonies, teams in uniforms, school colors and a large “playing” field.

Huntington persevered in the face of adversity and rode a roller coaster to the world championships. The drive team’s pilot, Nick Lanzisero celebrated a win with a motion resembling eating soup, a reference to the words ‘Got Soup’ on the back of the Blue Devils’ robot. The move quickly caught on and the team became known for the celebratory motion.

Joined powerful alliance

During the final day of competition Huntington’s ranking had dropped, but at the point when alliances between teams are formed, following 92 qualifying matches the Blue Devils were picked by Team 4567 – the Mechanized Mafia. Miller Place’s Team 514 also joined the alliance.

Advancement in the playoff bracket is achieved by winning the best of three matches in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. During the quarterfinal round, Huntington’s alliance won two matches. During the semi-finals, the alliance was given a yellow card because of a pilot error, which carries on to the remaining matches. The alliance dropped the next match, setting up one final match.

During that final 2:30 minute long match, the alliance ended up with the highest score, beating the first seed alliance, but was disqualified because of another pilot error. The team was crushed, but in the spirit of gracious professionalism it accepted the loss with heads held high.

After the remaining matches, with the first seed alliance going on to take first place, the closing ceremonies began. Team 5016 was pleased to receive the Safety Award. But it didn’t end there. As the announcer began to describe a team that preached inclusivity and community outreach the Blue Devils grew restless in their seats. Then he announced Huntington High School as the recipient of the Engineering Inspiration Award, which “celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s school or organization and community.”

Shocked to win Engineering Inspiration Award

Before selecting Huntington, officials reviewed the field and considered the “extent and inventiveness of the team’s efforts to recruit students to engineering with particular emphasis on the most recent year’s efforts; the extent and effectiveness of the team’s community outreach efforts with particular emphasis on the most recent year’s efforts; the commitment to science and technology education among the team, school and community; achievement of the FIRST mission and ability to communicate that at the competition and away from it; efforts in each of these areas that are ongoing and not strictly concentrated on the build and competition season.”

After Huntington was announced as the 2017 award recipient, the Blue Devil team and its supporters, including school administrators, parents and mentors, numbering about 30 in all, jumped to their feet and clamored down to the arena floor in shock to collect the honor.

As this year’s Engineering Inspiration Award recipient, Huntington’s $5,000 entry fee into the world championships will be covered by NASA.

“The competition was filled with ups and downs,” said junior Matthew Wildermuth, the team’s vice captain. “I was really excited one moment and then sad at another. We went from having our alliance disqualified due to someone sticking their hand outside the airship in the semifinals to winning two awards, one of which is a ticket to the world competition. I think that the award is a testament to how far we have come since our program first started. Some of the main things that judges look for in the Engineering Inspiration Award is sustainability for the future of the team and community outreach. The team has proven itself to be an up and coming force in the FIRST Robotics community and I am very excited to see what the future holds for us.”

Making STEM accessible

The award is partly due to the efforts Huntington Robotics has made toward making STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs and concepts accessible to the community and the team’s devotion to inclusivity and outreach.

This also marked the first year the team had ever made a play for the Chairman’s Award, which is a route to qualifying for the world championships. That effort was headed by freshman safety captain Abby Holmes, who along with a small group pursued a process that stretched over a period of months.

Competing in a field of 22, Huntington made a presentation to judges and submitted an essay and video. Chairman’s Award judges were wowed by the team’s efforts to spread STEM awareness and concepts. After all was said and done the Bethpage Regal Eagles claimed the 2017 award, but Team 5016 was ecstatic to see a team that it has worked closely with win the honor and move on to the world championships. 

Huntington has worked through many technical and strategic challenges during the season. “This is my second year as a member of the drive team and each year the competitions get more exciting and intense,” said junior John Riley, Huntington’s chief technology officer. “After the Hudson Valley regional, the team made some crucial adjustments that gave us an edge against our competitors. We had no mechanical issues during the entire Hofstra regional, which made winning the Engineering Inspiration Award even sweeter. I’m proud of what we accomplished and look forward to taking our Blue Devils strategies to St. Louis.”

H-ton makes a big splash

In a relatively short period of time, Huntington Robotics has made a big splash in the metropolitan area and capturing the Engineering Inspiration Award is an indication of just how far the program has come in four years.

“This award is such an honor to receive because so much of what we do on our team is focused around community outreach and increasing diversity,” said junior Lindsay Saginaw, who heads Huntington’s marketing and public relations efforts. “It is not just about building a robot, but making STEM accessible in the community and inspiring the engineers, businessmen and women and leaders of the future. We continue to embrace our motto ‘Invested in Leadership, Engineering and Diversity’ and this award proves that. And we could never do what we do without the help of our amazing parent association, school support and sponsors.”

Huntington Robotics receives financial support from the school district. Its current group of community sponsors include NASA, Gellerman Orthodontics, LuHi Summer Programs, Palacios Law Group, Carter, Deluca, Farrell, and Schmidt, LLP, Atlantic Auto Group and Snake Tray.

While already eagerly anticipating the world championships, Huntington team members are still savoring the Blue Devils’ performance at last weekend’s regional.

“The Engineering Inspiration Award celebrates ‘a team’s outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering and engineers, both within their school as well as their community,’” Ms. Holmes said. “Team 5016 has been passionately working for the past four years towards making Huntington a district where STEM opportunities are easily accessible and receiving this award has been an honor for each and every one of us. The positivity and energy that was radiating from our team throughout the entire competition is indescribable.” 

Chairman's Award presentation team members Abby Holmes, Lindssay Saginaw and David Alfaro.
Huntington's robot proved resilient at the LI regionals.
Huntington drive team pilot Nick Lanzisero is animated at Hofstra.
The Huntington robot has the phrase Got Soup on it.