Robotics team takes top rookie honors in LA regional tournament


BP Photo by Eva Suissa

Team members perform small fixes on the robot in preparation for an FRC match. The team won 6 of 8 matches.

By Eric Bazak, Editor-in-Chief

Shalhevet’s new Robotics team placed 16th in the FIRST Robotics Competition held in Long Beach this weekend, attaining the highest ranking for any rookie team at the 66-team tournament at the first-ever appearance by an Orthodox Jewish school.

Competitor schools, some with years of experience and budgets of up to $100,000, came from throughout the Los Angeles region. FIRST is an acronym for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”

“It was a very fun experience getting to meet people from different schools and to compete at such a high level,” said junior Jonah Kaye. “We did well and we’re extremely proud of ourselves.”

The team was spearheaded by junior transfer student Seiji Shaw, (see related story ) who, with the help of others on the team, raised $20,000 in grants and donations so that Shalhevet could participate in the league.

Students from Seiji’s former school in San Francisco, Lowell High School, operated Shalhevet’s robots on Friday night and Saturday while Shalhevet students kept Shabbat, Jonah said.

The tournament made an exception to its rule that teams must handle their own robots and allowed for Lowell, which was competing in a different regional at the same venue, to operate Shalhevet’s robots during Shabbat matches.

This year, the FRC — FIRST Robotics Compeition – had competing robots pass through certain obstacles that opposing teams set up, while collecting balls and shooting them into opponents’ goals.

Sophomore Zack Hirschhorn attributed the team’s success to consistency.

“We did so well because we had a great driver,” said Zack. “And our robot didn’t do very flashy things, but we did the things we needed to do very consistently.”

The team’s faculty adviser, I.T. director Yossie Frankel, chaperoned a first-ever Robotics Shabbaton along with Physics teacher Ms. Amy Sirkis, Judaic Studies teacher Mrs. Atara Segal and parents of team members.

FIRST’s website says the competition hopes to foster interest in science and technology.

“The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting Mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,” the website states.