LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders recently honored Livingston Robotics Club team Exit 5 Robotics (E5R) for winning the Think Award for programming at the 2016 New Jersey VEX Robotics Championship.

During the proclamation, Freeholder at Large Patricia Sebold cited Exit 5 Robotics’ achievements and their long-running commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) throughout their seven years. Sebold praised E5R as a group of young girls that have demonstrated creativity, a spirit of positivity and competitiveness.

“I am so proud they are all from my hometown of Livingston. However, they represent Essex County well,” said Sebold. “On behalf of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, I commend the Exit 5 Robotics team, for your success in VEX robotics competition, and to be the role model for girls in pursuing interest being considered to be non-traditional and to bring great honor and distinction to yourself, your community, your parents and the county of Essex.”

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E5R is an all-girls robotics team founded as a FIRST Lego League (FLL) team in 2010 under Livingston Robotics Club. The team of nine girls has entered 11 robotics competitions involving 40 qualification events, and has earned 23 awards along the way. 

During the 2015-2016 NJ VEX Robotics competition season, E5R captured one Excellence Award and one Design Award in two different qualification events. In the VEX NJ Championship held in February, E5R won the Think Award for excellence in programming. 

“This is an amazing group,” said E5R coach Bill Lam, whose daughter is the co-captain. “They work very hard and love what they do. It is exciting to watch this group of young adults work together to achieve successful outcomes. I am sure they will be very successful in their future endeavors.”

Currently made up of Tiffany Yu, Chloe Lam, Lisa Peng, Alice Huang, Khushi Amin, Virginia Cheng, Erin Eagen, Stephanie Tam and Anna Xia, all 9th and 11th graders at Livingston High School, E5R also qualified for the VEX US Open competition in Council Bluffs of Iowa, held in April. 

In addition to the team’s achievements in robotics competitions, E5R is also actively involved in community activities in promoting STEM and has conducted more than 30 outreaches since 2010. E5R continues to be recognized as a top-level team that has helped drive the rapid growth of all-girls teams in NJ.

From less than five out of 180 NJ teams in 2010, there are now more than 20 all-girls teams competing and winning across the state.

“It’s a really interesting thing to be part of an all-girls team in something like robotics, where it’s very heavily boy-dominated,” said Lisa Peng. “It’s given me the confidence to pursue engineering in the future, which is what I want to learn in college, and that’s all due to robotics.”

E5R Team Captain Tiffany Yu, who is an incoming senior, echoed Peng by saying that robotics taught her many skills that she and the other girls will benefit from in the future, including not only problem-solving skills, but also independence as well as working in a group-oriented setting.

“Even if we don’t go into robotics or STEM-oriented careers, I think that the experience of working as a team is very beneficial to working with other people later in the workplace or even at college,” said Chloe Lam.

“We’re really excited to have had this opportunity and I think that next year, as seniors, many of us will definitely be considering our experiences that we’ve had in robotics when we go off to college,” said Yu, once again echoing her classmates. “I think it’s really affected what we’ll be doing in the future in our careers and our lives—short-term and long-term.”

Five years ago when Yu joined the team, she said she had no idea what kind of experience to expect. But after countless competitions, community outreaches and hours of robot design, building and programming, Yu said she is thrilled to have had such an immersive experience that she would not have had otherwise.

For the 2016 State Championship, the girls designed a program that allowed their robot to perform better on the field and helped earned them the 2016 Think Award. Since there were only 13 awards given at the state finals, Yu credited her teammate, Alice Huang, who mastered a program called PID, for the project’s success.

Heading into a new season, the girls said they hope to incorporate more builders and to get more into the design process, with Peng spearheading the effort to master computer-aided design.

“We want to do as well as we did this season and make it past state finals,” said Yu. “We’ll do our best to see if we can make it to Worlds this year, not just the US Open, because it’s been an amazing experience. And I think that next year, with the additional experience, we’re not going to be a rookie team anymore, so we’ll have that extra push to help us get further.”

On behalf of the entire team, Yu thanked Coach Lam, who “always put technology education first and has always encouraged us and inspired us to reach the limit of what we can do.”

Yu also said that she is honored to be working with such amazing teammates and that she hopes to know these girls for many years to come.

“Together we can continue to encourage young children to engage in technology and science education because that is our future,” said Yu as she thanked the Board of Chosen Freeholders for the recognition.