LONGMEADOW, MA – There may be a lot of moving parts, but the Longmeadow High School robotics team is grinding away during its build season in preparation of upcoming competitions.
Team LongMetal, which last year in its rookie season advanced to the District Championships and earned a a trip to the World Championships, is less than two weeks away from the deadline to complete its second robot.
Last week at Longmeadow High School, the team was working hard on the robot after school – something the students and advisors do every day of the week during build season in an effort to get their robot done in time for competition.
LHS Principal Tom Landers said the robotics team is a great opportunity for students who are interested in robotics and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to work and learn together. The team, which has more than 40 students, may not get the same recognition as some of the school’s athletic programs, but Landers said it’s just as important.
“We have over 50 active clubs, and clubs don’t usually get the attention that athletics or music does, but they’re a huge part in the kids lives and a huge part of the co-curricular experience,” Landers said. “We try to have clubs for every niche that kids are passionate about. Whether it’s our service clubs, the Key Club…to a knitting club, to a few years ago when we had a Harry Potter Club (it’s no longer in existence) to the robotics club. It’s about finding an area that kids are passionate about.”
Landers said he’s “continually impressed” by what Team LongMetal has accomplished and is excited to see how they do this season.
“I’m impressed at the final product, and I’m impressed at the process and the involvement of all the students,” Landers said.
Assistant Principal Paul Dunkerley is an advisor to the team, and he credited the passion and dedication of the students to the team’s quick growth. Since last year, the team has doubled in size and spawned a summer robotics camp along with several other youth teams at the middle school and elementary school level.
Longmeadow parent Lee Allentuck is credited with helping start the team after he came across the FIRST LEGO League, a global program that allows kids to design, build, code, and compete in robotics, all on the same playing field.
Dunkerley noted that Allentuck was the right person to help get a team going at LHS.
“He brought not only his enthusiasm and passion for this, but he brought a group of kids with him who had a similar enthusiasm and passion and who were willing to step up from the FIRST LEGO League robotics to FIRST,” Dunkerley said. “Once we saw how interested the students were, it was really easy for the school to get behind it. It’s something that I wish I had as a student many, many, many years ago. I certainly would have been part of the robotics club, and I’m here because I want to support this program because I think it’s fantastic for kids. There’s also a little bit of a selfish piece to it because I just enjoy this. I enjoy working with the kids and seeing how this all comes to fruition. It’s an interest and passion of mine.”
Will Most, a senior, was on the rookie team last year and called its growth “unbelievable.”
“It started as a group of I think six kids in Mr. Allentuck’s basement when they were in fifth or sixth grade, and it’s really grown since then,” Most said. “It’s been amazing to watch. I joined the team last year as a junior because I had been looking for a team like this. I tried to start one by myself my sophomore year, but it’s kind of hard when it’s just me and two friends. It’s awesome to see how the team’s grown.”
Most said expectations were tempered last year with the team’s first robot, Sir LanceBot, but as the team advanced in competitions they gained confidence.
“It’s crazy,” Most said. “I feel like this program’s going to just grow exponentially in the next few years. If you look at Enfield and Agawam, they have really strong programs. I feel like we’re going to be similar to those in a few years.”
Another aspect Most said he enjoys about being on the team is the camaraderie among the students on not just Team LongMetal, but other teams as well.
“There’s people that I just met randomly at competitions, and I’m still friends with them,” said Most, who plans to major in engineering in college. “I went to their graduation parties over the summer, and I’m going to see them at events this year. It’s just such an awesome community. I feel like that’s something that robotics and engineering has opened me to.”
For those who aren’t necessarily interested in engineering or the technical aspect of the team, there are other things to do to help, like being a part of the business team or getting involved with project management.
Veronica Paulson, a sophomore in her first year with the team, not only serves as a mechanical engineer but also as a safety
engineer to make sure the team stays safe during competitions.
“It’s fun,” Paulson said. “Everyone is super nice, so it’s cool. I can just kind of step back when I need to and watch what they’re doing, but then I also have plenty of opportunities to step up and do stuff too.”
Sam Barresi, a junior who was on last year’s team, called the team’s growth from year one to year two “insane.”
“Last year we had like 15 to 20 people showing up maybe every day,” Barresi said. “Now we’ve got 30 to 40 kids showing up every day.”
Barresi said he loves to build things and has always been good with his hands. Along with making jewelry and sculptures, Barresi said he’s fond of problem solving and “figuring stuff out.”
“I love that type of stuff, and this is pretty much that perfect outlet,” Barresi said. “Everybody here is cool, so it’s really great to be a part of it.”
Next month, Team LongMetal will host its first ever Sir LanceBot RoboRace 5K Run and 2K Walk.
The inaugural event will take place from from 8:30-11:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 31 at LHS, located at 95 Grassy Gutter Road.
The public is invited to participate for a fun day filled with robots and racing, where they can meet Sir LanceBot and learn more about the robotics team. People can earn awards for running, but there will also be awards for the best dressed robot.
For more information, visit www.longmetal.org.
– Longmeadow News article by Jeff Hanouille