Livingston All-Girls Robotics Team Returns from Championship with Award

(L-R) Elaina Mann, Jannet Chari, Annica Lam, Julia Chen, Maggie Siao, Summer Yung, Rachelle Hu, Chloe Sivitz. All are in 8th grade except for Rachelle Hu, who is in 9th grade. Credits: Bill Lam
(L-R) Rachelle Hu, Annica Lam celebrating as the robot finishes its last mission with half a second to spare and securing 16th place out of 79 teams. Credits: Bill Lam

Exit 5A Robotics has returned from the North American Open Championships with an award

CARLSBAD, CA — The members of Livingston’s all-girls robotics team, Exit 5A Robotics (E5A), recently completed their 2017-2018 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition season at the North American Open Championships (NAOC) held at LegoLand California, where they competed against 79 of the top teams in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Guam as well as leading teams from Sweden, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, South Korea and Japan, and returned with a “Judges Award” for their enthusiasm, teamwork and community efforts.

Teams competing in FLL are judged and scored in three categories: robotics, core-values and teamwork and a STEM research project. The 2017-2018 season saw 325 FLL teams compete in New Jersey, 20,000 in the U.S. and about 30,000 teams worldwide.

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At the NAOC, the team’s STEM research project was noted by judges as being an original solution with potential value. E5A’s proposal titled, “Amphitrite,” utilizes a class of plants known as Halophytes to drastically reduce road-salt contamination of reservoirs and aquifers. This will soon be entering a pilot project phase with a local water utility.

Judges also cited the team’s robotics work for strategy and innovation with original features and systematic design. The team’s robot finished in top 20 percent, placing 16th in the robot game challenge and being only a few millimeters away from completing a mission that would have placed E5A in ninth.

E5A, a member of the Livingston Robotics Club (LRC) since 2014, is made up of Livingston High School and Heritage Middle School students.

The team was built around the veteran core of fourth-year team members Jannet Chari, Julia Chen, Annica Lam, Chloe Sivitz and Summer Yung. After a one-year hiatus, Maggie Siao returned fully invigorated to captain the STEM research project.

In her second year, Rachelle Hu brought advanced programming concepts to help with robot navigation, and newcomer Elaina Mann developed rapidly with novel mechanisms to help the robot complete missions. Lam captained the robot team development team and Yung captained the core-values and teamwork efforts.

With the season complete, the team reflected back upon the year.

Chari commented that the NAOC was filled with so many people of different backgrounds, “and yet we all shared common bond for STEM, robotics, and gracious professionalism.” She added that it was a wonderful experience to meet teams from around the world.

"Throughout this year, we've met so many inspiring people, been to numerous exciting events, meeting over 5,000 people along the way,” said Sivitz. “It was great to be among so many other talented teams at the NAOC.”

Siao noted that she saw a stark but highly positive change with nearly half of this year’s competitors being young women compared to less than a quarter in the 2014 season.

The season also a positive life-changing aspect, according to Yung, who said the NAOC was a special experience being able to meet different teams from different states and countries. It was a reminder that even with lot of hard work spent learning new things, everybody there was still learning, she said.

Chen also found that aspiring to learn was a common bond across young people from around the world. She said she noticed that everyone was more concerned about learning new things as opposed to focusing on winning, even though they were at a competitive event.

On the robot side, Lam expressed relief but also pride in all the hard work that transpired from August to May.

"This season of FLL was one of the most memorable experiences in my life,” said Lam. “We built three robots each with increasing complexity and improved our programming to make a better navigating robot.”

Hu found that the difficult 2016-2017 season laid the foundation for this successful 2017-2018 season, which incorporated many more advancements in both programming and mechanics. Mann came away from the NAOC with a great appreciation for the diversity of robot designs and project ideas.

The members of E5A expressed appreciation for all the support they received this season from organizations, including: American Water, Suez Water, Livingston Township and industry experts Alexandra Wells PE, Lauren Weinrich PhD, Chuck Collins - NJ Turnpike Administrator. The team also thanked its premier sponsors, Morgan Stanley, Prudential and also longtime sponsors Charles Ditta DDS, Bernard Gorkowitz DDS and Wushu-Kung Fu Fitness Center.

For more information about supporting E5A, starting a robotics team or joining a robotics team, contact

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