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Hofstra University hosts FIRST robotics competition

The William Floyd High School robotics team celebrates

The William Floyd High School robotics team celebrates winning the 2016 SBPLI Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition Saturday, April 2, 2016, held at Hofstra University. Credit: Chuck Fadely

High schoolers crossed basketball, soccer, and bumper cars with coding, design and engineering to create robot gladiators as part of a robotics competition at Hofstra University on Saturday.

The 17th annual regional FIRST robotics competition, which was held at the Hempstead campus, included high school students from across Long Island and the state and from as far away as Brazil.

Huntington High School’s Sam Prinzi, 17, said the robot wars drew not just would-be engineers but also intellectuals, artists and those bound for the military. “It’s great team-building.”

Each round began with a 15-second period for the battle bots to scale barriers, block each other and shoot boulders through castle towers, all on their own.

Then their drivers took over control until the match ended, two minutes and 15 seconds later.

“I have to stay calm and keep my cool and make sure the robot gets where it has to be,” said Kevin Recupero, 18, a student at Connetquot High School.

Teammate Julia Abbondanza, 18, of Ronkonkoma, said: “Once I saw this, I absolutely had to do it; you meet the best people here — everyone is so helpful and so willing to help each other out.”

The competition rewards collaboration, not just within teams but among all players.

The 51 teams worked together in temporary groups of three, and were matched with different allies and foes if they advanced to the next round, said FIRST co-director David Johnson, 55, of Rockville Centre.

“You can’t build a robot that does everything,” he said, so teams may concentrate on offense or defense.

A focus on scoring goals paid off for Brazil’s Marista Pio XII of the Novo Hamburgo team, which allied with Sachem and William Floyd high schools to narrowly beat the Southold Unified School District’s alliance with Patchogue-Medford and Cold Spring Harbor high schools. The final score: 175 to 161.

“We had a pretty consistent shooter,” said Mauro Junior, 21, of Novo Hamburgo.

Ty Warren, 17, of Patchogue-Medford, helped lead his team’s mechanics, kept track of time and tossed balls to his teammate who rolled them onto the field.

“I’m the human player,” he said.

The global championships will be held in St. Louis at the end of April.

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