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Monday April 17, 2017 at 11:34am Age: 2 yrs
Category: High School, District


The bots are working double time, and so are builders and programmers with Minisink Valley’s Robotics Club, as they ready for the next competition: the 2017 New Jersey / New York Botball Tournament on May 13.

After it signed up for Botball, the club received all the components and instructions to assemble the game board. The size of a large table and resembling an obstacle course, the game board is used to test the bots and practice the challenges they will face at the competition.

Enrollment up this year, and the club has three teams of two programmers and two builders, each. Builders in each team start off by designing and engineering two bots. Programmers decide how the bots are going to score points on the game board and begin developing the necessary code. From there they work closely together, systematically testing and tweaking to ensure every piece is in the right place, and everything happens at the right time and speed – with consistency. 

“It’s not an exact science. It’s an estimate, so there’s a lot of trial and error,” said Owen Straub, a builder, and club VP.

Later this month, all three teams and their bots will be put to the test in a mini in-house tournament. The team whose robots perform most consistently will be selected to represent the club at the Botball in Rahway, NJ. 

Graduating club members pass the torch…

Sean McQuillan, a programmer and club president, acknowledges the long-term, rigorous demands of building and coding. But when he speaks of the rewards, it’s clear that Sean runs for pleasure.

Reflecting on the May 13 competition, Sean and Owen agree that robotics tournaments are as much about competition as they are about young people sharing the same passion and seeing the possibilities before them.

Owen, Sean, and Meaghan Cahill, a builder and club secretary, have all been with the club since middle school. All three are members of the National Honor Society. All three are graduating with the class of 2017. “It’s time to pass on the torch,” Sean said.

Sean has his eyes set on Ithaca College and a degree in computer science. Owen will decide between mechanic or electrical engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. And Meaghan is headed to Clarkson University in South Carolina for a degree in civil engineering.

Younger club members ready to rise…

James Drake, a junior, is on his second year with the club as a builder. Having studied under Owen, James recommends “jumping right in.” “You can’t be waiting to pick it up from someone else. You have to be willing to try and fail, and be frustrated,” James said. “But it’s a fantastic feeling when you give your bot to the programmers and they can make it work.” 


Jesse Troia, a junior and a programmer, has been with the club since eighth grade. With the graduation of the current club leaders, Jesse will rise to senior status next year. Meanwhile, he’s practicing leadership skills as the lead programmer in his team. In fact, he has an assistant programmer.

The experience of new members…

New to the club is Isabella Balz, an eighth grader, and the only member from the middle school. “It’s a lot of fun and everyone welcomes you and helps you,” Isabella said.

Also a new member is Christa Westby, a junior. “It’s a great experience and a fantastic atmosphere. I came in knowing nothing, but now I’m starting to think about engineering as a possible degree and career,” she said.

Thinking of signing up?

The Robotics Club meets September through May, three times a week, from 2:30 to 5:00, at the middle school. Around competitions, members meet Monday through Saturday.

To qualify for the club, students must have excellent grades and demonstrate exemplary conduct.

Club advisers are Jonathan Clemmons, a technology teacher at the middle school, and Sally Clark, a physics teacher at the high school.