South Orangetown Central School District

Tappan Zee High School’s FIRST Robotics Competition team, SO BOTZ, made its comeback this week at the SBPLI #1 Regional Competition at Hofstra University, ultimately placing second with alliance partners Rebel Robotics, Hicksville J-Birds and Riptide Robotics. The three-day event marked the first time SO BOTZ has competed at an in-person regional contest since 2019.

Project Managers Giovanni LoPresti and Kayla Ng, both seniors, joined the team as freshmen in 2019, when SO BOTZ made its second appearance at the World Championship. This week’s regional gave them an opportunity to reflect.

“It was incredibly exciting to see so many of our new members experience competition for the first time, witnessing the diverse, collaborative and welcoming environment FIRST offers,” Ng said. “Robotics has taught me so much and transformed me into not only a team player, but a leader as well.“

LoPresti agreed. “For me, personally, I have learned to work alongside others in a team setting to accomplish a common goal.”

The 2022 season game, FIRST Forward: Rapid React, is designed to inspire teams to think about future transportation sustainability and is presented by Boeing. Since the January 8 season kickoff, the team has worked to design, build and program an industrial-sized robot which they named Electra..

In addition to robot construction and programming, team members are responsible for budgeting, managing the SO BOTZ social media feeds and securing sponsorship to supplement District funding to cover parts, equipment, competition fees and travel. Major sponsors include Orange & Rockland Utilities, Goosetown Communications, Werfen,, Daikin, Telemetrics and the New York State Insurance Reciprocal.

“To return to competition after a two-year hiatus has been exciting and challenging. It has felt like our rookie year all over again, since we have only a few returning members. However, our veterans have shown just how determined they are and have guided our new members into what has proven to be a successful return to competition. Placing second at regionals has shown all our members how capable they are. We’re looking forward to New York City and to working toward getting stronger and more accomplished every year,” said TZHS Math/Computer Science teacher and SO BOTZ Lead Advisor Barbara Murphy. In addition to Murphy, the team is supported by TZHS Science teacher and Advisor Jim Keelty, TZHS Math Team Leader, Advisor Marisa Premus, K-12 Instructional Technology Coach Marc Eckert and community mentor volunteers Vanessa Lapins, Joey Gottlieb, Jen Citrolo, Ed LoPresti and Kristy Engels.

In its brief, five-year history, SO BOTZ has scored several high-profile achievements, including earning its way to the World Championships in Detroit in 2018 and 2019, winning the Rookie All-Star Award at Worlds in 2018 and having two software subteam leads named Dean’s List Finalists for technical expertise and leadership in 2019 and 2021.

The team is slated to compete in the New York City Regional at The Armory Track & Field Center April 9-10. Although spectators are not permitted this year, fans can check the SO BOTZ Facebook or Instagram feeds on the morning of each game day for the link and match schedule.

Tappan Zee High School FIRST Robotics Competition team SO BOTZ