CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham High School Design and Technology teacher and Robotics team coach Julie Ryan won the Outstanding Veteran Coach Award. The NJ FIRST board, which coordinates the runs the NJ FIRST Tech Challenge competition for high school Robotics teams, selected Ms. Ryan for the award.

Each year the NJ FIRST board give out this award to a veteran coach, someone involved in FIRST Tech Challenge for more than three years.

“I was completely shocked to hear I won this award because there are so many outstanding coaches in the state who are so deserving," Ryan said. "This is my fourth year as an FTC coach. The first year I had one team of six students, and, by the second, I had two teams of eight students each. Each year my students have grown and advanced to new levels of competition.”

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Ryan noted that, by the second year of the program, both CHS teams earned a place at the state championship and one team advanced to the next level of competition. Last year, the CHS Robotics team went to states, super regionals, and the world championship.

“And this year,” Ryan said, “the students earned their way to Worlds!”

Ryan complimented her students, saying that the students in the program the past two years have helped her plan and run a state qualifying tournament at CHS each December.

Coaching an FTC program is an immense time commitment. Ryan and her students have spent nearly 300 hours working on their robots outside of class time already this year.

“And that doesn't include the hours I spend planning and organizing and doesn't begin the count the amount of hours they spend outside of classroom offered hours working on their documentation and robot,” Ryan said.

Ryan continues to coach because she says, “However tiring the 12-hour competitions may be, it's so rewarding to see the excitement on my students’ faces after each small or monumental success. It can be as simple as testing their programming in the classroom and finally getting the vision recognition to work, or as gigantic as when members are losing their minds realizing they qualified for the World Championship. Each success is as great as the next.”

Chatham Supervisor of Instructional and Design & Technology Danielle Dagounis said, “Ms. Ryan's dedication to designing, building, and sustaining our high school robotics program has been phenomenal, and it is not surprising at all that she is being recognized for the outstanding work she has done over these past four and half years.

"Her time and dedication have enabled our students to engage in experiences they never would have had access to before, including various trips to state, national and world competitions. Ms. Ryan is an asset to our program and district.”