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February 7, 2013

Oneonta Common Council lauds rise of robotics team

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — For anyone who may have missed it, Tuesday was RoboKronos Day in the city of Oneonta. Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller issued a proclamation honoring the robotic team of Oneonta High School students sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Otsego County 4-H program, at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

“This is a group that has done extremely well in a short period of time,” Miller said. “When you have a group that wants to take the risk of competing and is successful, the community should find a way to applaud.” He said he hoped the recognition would encourage others to participate.

The Otsego 4-H FIRST Robotics Team 4203, known as RoboKronos – The Titans of Technology, was the 2012 Regional Rookie All-Star champion, reaching the national finals in St. Louis, where its robot competed against others playing basketball. This year’s FIRST competition begins Feb. 28 at Finger Lakes Regional Robotics Competition at Rochester Institute of Technology. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international non-profit group dedicated to inspiring interest in science and technology among youth through the exhilaration of sport.

The season began Tuesday when the team received the requirements for this year’s competition that requires a robot to toss a Frisbee through a target and climb a pyramid, said team lead mentor Paul Agoglia.

The 20-member team of Oneonta High School students joined nearly 51,000 others in 81 cities around the world for the live broadcast and webcast that day.

The robot has to be completed by midnight Feb. 19, when it will be bagged for the upcoming competition, Agoglia said. It’s a “really neat” way to highlight elements of STEM education, referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It shows the efforts of students in applying these disciplines to an assignment.

He said he hoped the proclamation will get the message out to a few more students and get them interested in the fields. There are nine returning members and 11 new ones. The returning students have provided a lot of leadership, he said. Increasing the number of mentors to ten, from six, has worked out well. Including mentors that could help with the specific needs of the robot, could give the team an advantage over last year.  

Team media contact Mark Kleszczewski said the group is reaching out to the community in a number of ways for support. Members represent a pool of potential employees, for area companies. It’s an opportunity for the students to learn there are such opportunities for them in the region. “It’s vital to the economic future of the area,” he said.

Otsego 4-H director Patti Zellmer said with Oneonta High School hosting the student efforts to build the robot, and local sponsorship, it is a project supported by the community. With the entry fees, and costs of getting to the competition it is an expensive proposition, but what the students get is “priceless,” she said.