Mayor, Yale and UI Honor Career High Robotics Team Headed To Nationals

The robotics team from Hill Regional Career High School was recently honored by the mayor, representatives from United Illuminating and Yale for their winning entry in the regional competition of FIRST, (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition at the Connecticut Convention Center.

Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., Yale University’s Dean of Engineering Paul Fleury, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo met with the student team at City Hall for a demonstration of their winning entry.

The win at the regional event in Hartford earned the team an invitation to the National Championship in Atlanta next month, beating out more than 40 teams from 8 states. In the process, the team overcame some amazing odds.

Most teams competing for the Chairman’s Award have 50 or more students, access to six or eight engineers from a local technology company, an army of parents prepared to transport them wherever and whenever necessary, and an annual budget of between $50,000 and $75,000. The application and interview process for this award is so daunting that barely a third of all teams even apply.

The Elm City Robotics Squad, operates on a shoe string budget of about $6000. It has just two technical mentors for the team, tool-maker David Johnson from the Yale Chemistry Department and Career High School physics teacher Ernest Smoker who left his career in industry and became a physics teacher at because of his involvement with the Elm City team. Other mentors for the program are Angel Tangney and Laura Roblee, a business teacher at Career.

Career High’s FIRST team, known as the Elm City Robotics Squad, built its first robot eight years ago with the help of retired engineers Jim Crowe and John Buffa from United Illuminating. That team placed 735th of 750 entries. This year, the team of 40 students who spent six weeks building their robot, placed first in the region.

“The team’s dedication is inspiring,” said Fleury. Just about everyone on the team walks – in some cases, for miles – to get to evening and weekend meetings. The impact of the FIRST program on students has been broad, from providing a sense of teamwork and creating a winning venture against large odds, to giving the students a safe place to go after school and on weekends.

FIRST was founded in 1989, by Dean Kaman, inventor of the Segway, to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. Based in Manchester, NH, the not-for-profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills. More information is available on the FIRST website.

The team needs help raising funds to go on to the 2007 FIRST Championship April 12, 13 and 14 in the Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA. Contributions to help support the team in its quest to the National Competition can be made by contacting Claudia Merson, (432-4098) who is Director of Public School Partnerships at Yale.

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Janet Rettig Emanuel:, 203-432-2157