South Orangetown Central School District

SO BOTZ 2023 group photo

SO BOTZ, Tappan Zee High School’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team, is headed to its first regional contest this weekend at Hofstra University Arena!

The “ultimate sport of the mind,” FIRST Robotics Competition is a global program which offers a challenging, real-world engineering experience for high school students. Under strict rules and limited time and resources, teams of high school students must design and build industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game in alliance with other teams, while also raising substantial funding to meet goals, managing a team brand, and promoting STEM appreciation within their local communities.

Since its inception in 2017, SO BOTZ has become a capstone experience in SOCSD’s K-12 STEM pathway. Seventy-eight percent of team alumni are pursuing STEM majors in college; many have secured internships at companies including Amazon, Bloomberg, Meta, Microsoft, NASA, Oracle and Salesforce. In Fall 2023, TZHS will introduce a new FIRST Robotics elective to expand access to hands-on robotics instruction to students unable to participate in the afterschool team.

This year’s team is led by Project Managers Molly C., a junior, and Sean M., a senior, with guidance from TZHS faculty advisors Karen Connell, Barbara Murphy and Jim Keelty and mentor volunteers.

“Pursuing the goal of becoming a FIRST Impact Award team shows our team’s growth in terms of developing into a model FRC team. Being able to bring back all of the community-based outreach that we’ve done in the past has been great–and we’ve expanded our collaborations,” Molly noted.

One of those collaborations has included the launch of a virtual mentorship initiative with the St. Thomas Amagaro Girls Secondary School (STAGSS) robotics team in Kenya through Kiwimbi International last fall. Team members provide video tutorials to teach their Kenyan peers programming skills, offer asynchronous support and engage in live mentoring via video chat every other Saturday. Earlier this month, SO BOTZ team members participated in a virtual discussion about their collaboration with STAGSS teachers at the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization Committee on the Status of Women Forum. A video of the discussion was screened throughout the week-long event.

Sustaining the team’s progress and legacy is important, Sean explained. “I’m excited about the tremendous involvement of younger members this year; only four of us are seniors. This means longevity.”

Fenrir, the team’s 2023 competition robot, draws its name from Norse mythology and boasts a powerful tank drive, a two-stage arm with pneumatic claw and vision-integrated drivetrain that can align with reflective tape and AprilTags during autonomous play. (View the game here.)

Check out SO BOTZ at their upcoming regionals and community outreach activities, below:

SBPLI #2 Regional at Hofstra University Arena
Friday, March 24-Saturday, March 25

Tri-State Engineering Expo at White Plains High School
Sunday, March 26

New York Tech Valley Regional at MVP Arena
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1

New York City Regional at The Armory Track & Field Center
Friday, April 7-Saturday, April 8

St. Thomas Aquinas College Earth Day 2023
Saturday, April 22