HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Hasbrouck Heights students are have begun participating in the international CoderZ League Virtual Robotics Competition.

Hasbrouck Heights has participated in the United States Regional Competition for the past three school years.  For the very first time, Hasbrouck Heights is competing in the International CoderZ League with teams from across five continents, according Joseph Mastropietro, principal. In last year's competition, the team won second place in the Eastern Regional Contest and ranked 19th in the United States for CoderZ.

The district has two teams of middle school students and one high school team. The program is again lead by club advisor Michael Binazeski. Middle school students involved are Rayan Hussain, Parishay Syed, Emma Thomas, Isabella Gonzalez, Alyssa Riedweg, Aditya Vij, Yash Balakrishnan, Trey Hansen, and Seamus Baker, the only returning students from last year's team. The high school is represented by Abu Sayiem, Jeffrey Ober, Patrick Sari, and Ethan Herrera.

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"I hope the teams get the experience of working together as a team, learning to problem solve, adjusting to changing environments in the coding levels and most importantly a feeling of accomplishment for doing as well as they can in this time," said Binazeski. 

The teams are currently in the quarterfinals. They will move onto the next round on November 23.

CoderZ League is an international competition designed to engage students with exciting and innovative challenges that require the students to work collaboratively on coding, technology literacy, and other STEM-related activities.  The students compete in a tournament that consists of various gaming exercises that are geared for all learners, regardless of their experience with coding. 

"It is great seeing them learn about teamwork, creative thinking, programming skills, perseverance and of course seeing them have fun,"said Joseph Mastropietro, Hasbrouck Heights Middle School principal.

"I hope that CoderZ League virtual competition gives our students the opportunity to showcase their technology and coding skills, as well as be exposed to and explore the other gaming and coding activities that are being offered throughout the competition," said Frank D'Amico, Hasbrouck Heights Middle School vice principal. "The various STEM-related missions and tasks that are pretty challenging, but the best part is that any student is able to participate, regardless of their experience with coding, which is something that I really like.  We have some very talented students representing HHMS at this competition, so we are very excited to see how it plays out."

The robotics team normally meets after school, but during the pandemic all that preparation has moved online, posing a challenge to Binazeski.

"The biggest challenge is that with the Covid epidemic not being able to have in person meetings to strategize and show examples of how to code," he explained. "The fact that kids are spending four to five hours in front of a computer for school and then to ask them to sit and code for many more hours is asking a lot of anyone, but our students have done an amazing job so far in getting ready to compete." 

"It says a lot about the inner drive Hasbrouck Heights students have to rise to the occasion and do the best they can."

The global pandemic also created challenges for the event's organizer who Binazeski credits for adapting to the ongoing health crisis.

"Trevor Pope and Randy Swartz of CoderZ League have done an amazing job of taking a tournament that was held in colleges all across the country with in person competitions for four years and due to the Covid outbreak revamped their entire competition so that all schools in the United States and now the world can compete," he said. "It has become a global phenomenon that has schools from over five continents competing." 

Binazeski explained that CoderZ also partnered with Amazon when the Covid-19 virus hit in February. The group received a grant from Amazon for CoderZ Stem 101 which was made available for free to all schools in the US to help with virtual stem learning for all students.

CoderZ League is a cloud-based program that is available on any device.  It uses a simulation of virtual 3D Robots to perform complex tasks and missions.  The virtual experience makes it easy to design, program, and test a simulated robot in a variety of 3D environments.  Teams of students work collaboratively to program, plan, and complete missions while developing computational thinking and creative problem-solving skills.  Teams also compete to unlock new games and challenges in a quest to get their virtual robots to the finals.  As part of a team, students are encouraged to work together as they advance through missions and qualify for the subsequent challenges. 


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