CHS Robotics Teams Heading to Nationals

Members of the Columbia High School robotics team show what their robot can do during competition. Credits: Steve Valenti
Allan Tumolillo, center, coach of the Columbia High School robotics teams, watches the competition. Credits: Steve Valenti

EWING, NJ -- The Columbia High School Robotic teams are headed to the national championships in St. Louis on April 24-27 after scoring a victory on March 10 at the state championship, the second time in the three-year history of the program that Columbia has taken the regional title.

“Neither team gave up, especially the JV team when it was hard to get their robot to move,” coach of the robotics team Allan Tumolillo said. “The varsity guys were good with them (junior varsity), saying their robot wouldn’t move for the longest time their first year and it kept getting better. They are learning, and the best thing you can say is they never gave up.”

The College of New Jersey hosted the contest. The teams, which were partnered with a team from Suffern, N.Y., won six of their seven matches in the final round.

Sign Up for E-News

How the finals work is that after the preliminary round, the top seeds get to pick two other teams to join in an alliance to help them through the competition. Columbia’s varsity team was an alliance captain and chose the junior varsity team and the team from Suffern, N.Y., to be in their alliance.

“(The varsity is) a phenomenal team and (had) a great shot today but we will see how they do in St. Louis where every team is excellent,” Tumolillo said. “The JV team has made it in, has worked very hard to get here and almost all of them are first-year robotics types. They have learned the hard way through making things, not working, trying again and not working and that’s what engineering is -- to learn through failure rather than success.”

One of the biggest reasons for both teams’ success was their ability to work together, with the varsity team helping out the younger junior varsity team.

“The JV needs more,” varsity team member Kyle Rabago-Banjo said. “With the varsity team we just do; for them, you have to have to think more and explain how to do things. It gives it a bit more dimension to what we do.”

Jon Cotler of the junior varsity team credits the varsity team as the reason they were able to advance so far.

“Without them we wouldn’t be here today,” Cotler said. “They have helped us so much it’s crazy. They have told us strategy, what works what doesn’t. We would run designs by them and they will tell us it won’t work for reasons we didn’t even think of.”

Much of the work done on both of the robots was also done without the help of their adviser.

“What’s nice about it is I don’t have to do very much; they are all very smart kids,” Tumolillo said. “I take pride in the fact I don’t write code or design software. I will provide comments but I will not touch the machine.”

The hands-off approach by Tumolillo has helped the students gain a better idea of what they are doing while also teaching them new concepts.

“We have learned everything,” Cotler said. “We didn’t know anything at the beginning. I also learned a lot about mechanical engineering, which I thought I had an idea of but realized I didn’t.”

Both the JV and varsity teams qualified for the nationals.

“To start with a bunch of parts and to come up with a robot that can do whatever the game requires, is something most kids in high school can’t do,” Tumolillo said. “Eventually all kids can do it, but these are the kids that want to do it.”

The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Columbia High School Principal's Removal Raises More Questions Than It Answers

The last Twitter post from Columbia High School principal Elizabeth Aaron is very telling. 

The four-year CHS schools chief, who was recently, surprisingly, reassigned to a vague “Principal on Special Assignment” post by the school district, was a Twitter regular on her @CougarPrincipal account. There she would often promote the school’s successes and notable staff and ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 18

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll find out how accessing care at Atlantic Health System is now easier, more affordable and closer to home than ever, learn which item from the produce aisle could be the newest weapon against cancer, see what Atlantic Health System, the New York Times and Instagram all have in common and much more.



Maplewood Police Blotter - Stolen Vehicle in Maplewood Recovered by South Orange Police

July 18, 2018

July 11 - Motor Vehicle Theft; Sometime during the early morning hours, a vehicle was stolen from a residence on the 400 block of Richmond Ave. The vehicle was recovered by the South Orange Police Department the same morning.

Maplewood Police Blotter - Two Robberies Reported on July 5

July 2 - Motor Vehicle Theft; Sometime over the previous two days, a U-Haul truck was stolen from a business on Newark Way.

July 4 - Theft from Auto; During the overnight hours an unsecured vehicle parked on Elberta Rd was entered and keys were stolen from it.

July 5 - Robberies; At approximately 1:30 a.m., a male was assaulted by two males ridding bicycles while he was walking on ...

Free 'Movies in the Park' on July 18 and August 23 in Maplewood

July 16, 2018

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Free "Movies in the Park" are planned for Wednesday, July 18, and Thursday, August 23, a program hosted by the Maplewood Police Department in conjunction with the Maplewood Recreation Department, the Maplewood Office of Cultural Affairs, SOMA Film Festival and SOMA Municipal Alliance.

The movie on July 18 will be The Incredibles, shown in Dehart Park, ...

National Weather Service Issues Heat Advisory Through 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 17

NEW YORK, NY, - The National Weather Service issued a 'Heat Advisory' this morning for Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Union and Hudson Counties in New Jersey. The heat advisory will remain in effect from noon Monday July 16, until 6 p.m. Tuesday July 17.

Extreme heat can cause illness and death among at- risk population who cannot stay cool. The heat and humidity may cause heat stress during ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, July 21, 7:30 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, SHORT HILLS

Solid Gold with Bobby Valli at Par 440

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Thu, July 26, 6:00 PM

River Barge Park & Marina, Carlstadt

Meadowlands Discovery Sunset Eco-Cruise

Green Travel

Fri, July 27, 6:30 PM

Calloway's Restaurant & Bar, Staffordville

Family Promise SOC Fundraiser at Calloway's

Food & Drink Giving Back


Fri, July 27, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink

Statement From Emergency Committee to Reinstate Principal Aaron

July 10, 2018


We created a movement. We leveraged our collective 1,600 voices and forced the District leadership to sit with us today [Monday] and discuss the poorly communicated, weekend announcement that CHS Principal Elizabeth Aaron was being reassigned.

Our meeting was a first step in both accountability and transparency as Dr. Ficarra revealed Principal ...

Coalition on Race Responds to Changes in School District Administrators

The Board of Trustees of the Community Coalition on Race seeks racial equity, integration, and excellence in education for all students in our schools. While the pace of change has been frustratingly slow, we have seen some progress. Yet, candidly, there are too many students of color who are not well served in SOMA, who still experience segregated classrooms and who still suffer from racial ...

Those Boarded-Up Homes in the West Ward? Newark Has a Plan for Them.

July 19, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - The city is using the power of eminent domain to reduce the number of condemned homes and vacant lots scattered throughout the West Ward.

The redevelopment plan for the West Ward was introduced in 2016 and encompasses properties from the border of Irvington to South 13th Street between South Orange Avenue and 16th Avenue. One of the main goals of the plan is to support new ...

Lawmakers Denounce SCOTUS Nomination at Essex County Courthouse

NEWARK, NJ - State Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin said it was important to support local women’s health organizations at a state level should President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justice nominee be approved.

The assemblywoman joined state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, congressional leaders and women's rights groups yesterday at the steps of the Essex County Courthouse ...

Rutgers Hikes Tuition, Student Fees for 2018-2019 Academic Year

July 18, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved a 2.3 percent hike in tuition and fees, as well as increases for dorm rooms and meals, for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The increase now brings the annual cost for undergraduate students to $14,975, which is $337 more than this past school year.

Student housing will increase 1.9 percent, and ...

NJ Residents Take Action Against White Supremacist Fliers Found Around Bridgewater, Bedminster, Other Local Areas

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...

Woolley Home Solutions Building Has Unique Historical Stained Glass Window

July 21, 2018

Have you ever spotted this Stained Glass Window on our building? It's compliments of the first Methodist Church in town. The repairman saw our 1924 Autocar Truck parked outside and created this beautiful piece and installed it in our front window. The church was knocked down years ago and its location is now Walgreen's parking lot.

The church was originally built in 1836 when Maplewood ...

New Plumber Joins the Woolley Home Solutions Team

We are excited to announce a new addition to the Woolley team! Our new plumber, Oscar Buonafina, is an expert plumber with nearly a decade of industry experience serving New Jersey homeowners. He is also a NJ Master Plumber Since 2007. As a military veteran, Oscar truly understands hard work and commitment, and we’re so happy to bring him on board!

"I believe in service to people ...

Maplewood Brings Local Youth to the Governing Table With the Youth Advisory Committee

The Maplewood Township Committee cordially invites diverse student residents of Maplewood who are enrolled in private or public school in grades 8 through 12 to apply to serve on its new Youth Advisory Committee.  In order to continue empowering local youth whose recent advocacy on - gun safety, safe schools, voting rights, immigration, greater institutional equity and inclusion, to name a ...