AUGUSTA, NJ – It’s that time of year; Sussex County Fair time.  Once again the Newton High School FIRST Robotics team Aperture had a VIP visit their shed at the fairground.  Senator Corey Booker took time to walk down to Aperture’s fair home on Saturday afternoon.

Aperture’s Administrative Manager Katie Nelson gave Booker a binder about the team’s recent season of FIRST competitions.  At the 2917 FIRST Championship they earned the Underwriter’s Laboratory Industrial Safety Award.

Once he got to the Aperture shed Booker took a selfie with some of the team members, a tradition with the team.  The Booker photo will be added to those the team has with Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, Senator Steve Oroho, US Congressman Scott Garrett and Newton Board of Education President Stella Dunn, all visitors from past years.

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The team members had a moment to talk with Booker about their success at the 2017 FIRST Championship and the Newton program. The team spoke with the senator about their recent successful efforts lobbying Oroho to allow high school robotics teams to earn varsity status. He was shown the features of the new shed and introduced to Jane the training robot.  Before leaving Booker took a team photo in front of the team’s shed with all of the Aperature team members, coaches and advisors.

Booker spoke with Picatinny Arsenal Program Manager of STEM Education Ed Petersen about the team and the STEM initiatives at Newton High School and the arsenal.  Petersen thanked Booker for a letter written to Richard Eastman, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army which was passed on to the Secretary and read into the record of the U.S. Senate. 

The letter found its way back to Kenneth Dahl, the Commanding General of the arsenal through Booker’s Constituent Assistant Emma Corrado. Petersen complemented Booker’s staff for “their professionalism in the way the whole thing was handled.” 

The letter came after Eastman had arranged a field trip to the arsenal for Newark school children.  In the letter titled “Inspiring Scientists and Engineers of Tomorrow,” Booker said, “Picatinny Arsenal’s STEM Education Program has committed itself to elevating the next generation of military and civilian leaders in the STEM fields through workshops and facility tours that teach young people about interactive technologies, 3D printing and remote weapon equipment. With your continuous outreach to you people exploring their passions in the critical fields of tomorrow. Picatinny has shown that it is a vital neighbor for New Jerseyans.”

Aperture has strong ties with the Picatinny Arsenal STEM program.  Not only does the arsenal help to provide funds to the team, they also have a mentor who is an engineer at the base.  Picatinny requires any program seeking funds to get a Picatinny Engineer to work with their team. 

This proved to be easy for Newton as team member Cassandra Yauch’s mother Stacey is an engineer at the arsenal.  Cassie first attended STEM camp at the installation, where she met Newton coach Jim Hoffman.  Hoffman is an instructor in the STEM summer camp program at the arsenal.  Hoffman asked her to join Aperture. 

“My mom is the reason I got on the team,” the younger Yauch said.

Cassie was a student at Kittatinny High School but they did not have a robotics team so she joined Newton’s. Joining Aperature as a sophomore Yauch established the Kid’s Come FIRST program, bringing robotics to elementary school students.  When she graduated, Newton High School student and Aperture’s Visual Arts coordinator Caitlin Bailey picked up the reins.

“I specifically asked for it to be passed on to Caitlin,” Yauch said.  Yauch explained that Bailey has a talent for creating visual presentations that work well with will the young students. 

Youch returns each summer to continue as full-time intern at Picatinny Arsenal.  She is a Motivational Coach at the STEM camp.

“Cassie is the reason we created the position,” Petersen said. “Because she was such an impressive student she was one of three selected in the first group.  She represents why we started the program.  The labs where she works (as a summer intern) have nothing but praise for her.”

Yauch interns in the Manufacturing area where she works on the 3D printers. She will be starting her junior year at Virginia Tech in a few weeks where she is pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Biomedical Engineering.

“She’s my secret weapon,” Hoffman said.

The Aperture students, along with other invited guest robotics teams will be at the fair all week. They enjoy speaking with families and children, demonstrating their robots, showing off the team’s shed

 “We like to introduce robotic to people, especially if they don’t have a team at their school,” recent Newton graduate and team co-captain and Public Relations Coordinator Liam Oakes said to Booker. “We hope that gets them to ask for a team.”