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Nearly 50 students sign up for Massena High School’s Robotics team


MASSENA - It’s a full house for this year’s Massena High School Robotics team.

Nearly 50 students from Massena and Salmon River high schools are competing on this year’s team, according to Advisor Steve Robert.

“We’ve really grown,” Mr. Robert said.

He said 47 students, including 25 from Salmon River, have taken on this year’s challenge of building a robot to compete in local and national events.

Some students balance their schedule so they can participate in Robotics as well as other after-school activities.

“We have kids from the football team,” according to Massena High School senior Brianna Barley, who has participated in Robotics throughout her high school career.

But there’s always room for more.

“I wish there were 100 kids in my Robotics program,” Mr. Robert said.

For Massena’s students, he said, their interest often begins at the elementary level where they begin with the First Lego League. That interest continues at the middle school level with the FIRST Tech Challenge and culminates in the high school when the compete in the FIRST Robotics competition.

“It’s a huge feeder,” he said.

Being a part of the Robotics team can bring financial incentive for those heading to Clarkson University to continue their studies after high school, according to Mr. Robert.

“The hardest part is seeing kids going to Clarkson for engineering, and they’re not in Robotics. There’s $24,000 in scholarship money waiting for them. Last year we had five kids go to Clarkson that were part of Robotics,” he said.

“In the last 10 years, students have received over 52 scholarships through the Robotics program,” he added.

Ms. Barley was nominated for and received an Academic Achievement Award from Clarkson last year, giving her $36,000 for college.

“I started in the ninth grade when Mr. Robert nominated me to go on trips. I’d never been in Robotics,” she said.

What drew her into the club was the technological aspect of building a robot and putting that robot up against other teams during competitions at Clarkson University and other sites.

“I like the technology aspect. It’s really not that hard to do,” Ms. Barley said.

As a senior and a veteran of the program, she said, “We teach younger people what we know.”

The team usually participates in two competitions, not including smaller FTC challenges. The students have six weeks to build their robot before shipping out to the regional competition. They went to the national competition last year in St. Louis, Mo., and one of this year’s competitions will take the team to New Hampshire.

“I’ve never been to New Hampshire before,” Ms. Barley said.

Getting to competitions in places like New Hampshire, however, requires funding, in part for the transportation on tour buses.

“The kids generate all the funds” through sponsorships and sales of ads and cookies, Mr. Robert said.

In the past they’ve started their fundraising prior to trips, but they’ve changed that this year.

“This year we’re starting out now to get sponsors,” Ms. Barley said.

The team has prepared brochures that tell what they do, as well as a video that showcases the Robotics program and the students who participate in it.

“Every year we do a video that we give to sponsors,” Mr. Robert said.

In return, Ms. Barley said, sponsors can get their name put on the team’s website, or even a logo on the team’s robot.

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