EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- Teams of students from both Wood-Ridge Junior/Senior High School and Hasbrouck Heights Middle and High Schools participated in the Innovation Fair and Robotics Competition held at Becton Regional High School in East Rutherford on Wednesday afternoon. It was run under the auspices of the South Bergen Jointure Commission’s STEAM League.

Wood-Ridge’s team consisted of seventh graders and one ninth grader. The club advisors are Coach Keri Parry and Assistant Coach Robert Berger. Hasbrouck Heights team consisted of sixth graders and one high school student. The club's advisor is Michael Binazeski.

Parry explained that Wood-Ridge was part of a grant program through the NJ Department of Education, and mentored by the Pascack Pi-ioneers. Students from both schools met once a week and learned from student-peers

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Both robotics clubs were among the over one dozen schools from throughout southern Bergen County at the event. Also participating were North Arlington High School, Robert L. Craig School, Moonachie, South Bergen Jointure Commission, Rutherford Union School, Lyndhurst Public School, Garfield Middle School, Bogota Junior/Senior High school, Carlstadt Public School, South Hackensack Memorial School, Albert Faust School, East Rutherford, and host, Becton Regional.

In the Innovation Fair, there was a tie for first for the Idea Award between Robert L. Craig School’s “Handy Helper” and Hasbrouck Heights Middle School’s Self Aware entry.

“The best part about this was their vision they came up with the idea,” said Binazeski. “None of it was our (adults) idea. It was all their own brilliant ideas.”

The Empathy Award went to Garfield Middle School for its Cross Safe program, creating a safer pedestrian crosswalk.

The Middle School Supreme Innovation Award went to Carlstadt Public School.

“We want them to set their aspirations higher than just going to college, because there are other job opportunities - 3D printing, robotics. These are big fields,” said Allison Bugge, Garfield’s club advisor. “And if we get them excited about it at an early age, especially if they’re competing, which they love to do at the middle school level, who knows where it will lead later down the line.”

In the High School Robotics Division, Wood-Ridge placed third and Hasbrouck Heights placed second. Becton Regional won the top spot.

In the High School Innovation Fair, Becton Regional won the Idea Award. South Bergen won both the Empathy and Supreme Innovation Award.

There were two portions of the competition. The robotics competition was  open to clubs to build a robot which would be tested in various exercises alone and against other schools.

The Innovation Fair was open to the middle and high school school clubs. Its goal, according to its manual,   was to help “students to identify a problem that’s real to those in their school, and then work towards the development of a prototype that they will be able to share with their peers, with their educators, and with professionals in STEAM fields.” The four main objectives were to:

  • Have students think about real-world problems.
  • Have students collaborate on the creation of a working model;
  • Have students gain an understanding of the Engineering Design Process by tracking their steps throughout their endeavors; and
  • Introduce students to single-board computers and circuit boards.

At the Innovation Fair, students needed to demonstrate how they went through the steps of the engineering design process, along with supporting documents including Brainstorm (including early sketchings, notes, and ideas), The Prototype (a working model with using specific technology and parts), The Pitch (explaining its purpose and significance), and The Reflection (including its challenges and what yet needs to be done.)

“I think that it’s wonderful that kids are getting involved, and doing things with engineering that they didn’t get a chance to do before. I like to see the excitement in the kids eyes,” said Joseph Mastropietro, Hasbrouck Heights middle school principal “Being in a small school, going to STEAM labs, we’re giving kids something that they’re going to talk about, something that they’re going to utilize when to go to college, and eventually a career.”