Schenectady County

Robots hurl balls, demonstrate skills guided by students

The science and technology of robots brought dozens of elementary and middle school children to the

The science and technology of robots brought dozens of elementary and middle school children to the Brown School Saturday afternoon.

Shenendehowa High School junior Blaise Barra, junior Matt Thomson, senior Spencer Posson, senior Roland Van Zandt, and others were part of four high school teams scheduled to show the opportunities available in robotics competition — along with a peek into engineering careers — as part of an exhibition held in recognition of National Robotics Week.

Barra said he remembers the first time he saw a robotics demonstration as a child. The competitions normally feature nearly a dozen robots in a ring, competing by the completion of certain tasks to demonstrate design, dexterity and ingenuity.

“That’s why I want to an engineer now,” Barra said.

The exhibition allows an exchange between older and younger generations that is vital to dispelling common misinformation about robotics teams, according to Van Zandt.

“So many people think robotics is people cooped up inside all day,” he said. “It’s not. People are interacting with each other.”

For Courtney Moore, a Shen grad and RPI senior who will graduate next month, being involved with the robotics team was vital to her career development.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Moore said. “I thought I wanted to be an astronaut but when I got to school I realized that wasn’t going to work out. I fell in love with engineering. That’s why I’m at RPI now.”

Saturday’s event was organized by the Upstate New York Laboratory Robotics Interest Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to life-science automation education.

LRIG president Glenn Saunders said the exhibition was held as part of the robotics competition post-season for the area. The season normally runs from January to March.

Shen, Colonie, Albany and Hudson High Schools represent four of the area’s local US FIRST teams, according to Saunders. FIRST, an acronym for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” is a program developed by Dean Kamen, an American entrepreneur and inventor best known for creating the Segway, a mechanized personal transporter.

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