SPARTA, NJ - The success of the Sparta High School Robotics team at the local and state level allows them to go on to compete at the 2015 VEX World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. The challenge presented by their success is actually getting to Kentucky. They must find the funds to get them there. The cost is approximately $3000.
The students have begun fundraising efforts to help defray the out of pocket costs and make the trip possible. The short timeframe, however, has limited their options. On Monday they are holding a “Jeans Day” that will allow staff members throughout the district to wear jeans for a $5 donation.
“They are a diverse group of boys,” said Team Advisor Mark Meola. “They each contributed to the team in their own way.”
The VEX Robotics competition sends a detailed packet of rules and specifications at the end of the spring or early fall. The packet is nearly an inch thick detailing the rules about the robot and the field. “The first thing I do is give them the packet to study. Then they have to take a test,” said Meola. That way he is confident they know what they are going to be doing.
Steven Viola, Joseph Han, Daniel Parker and Tommy Apostolico comprise the team. They have “worked on the ‘bot for the past six months, mostly every day after school until 5:30 or 6 p.m. Sometimes we take the stuff home,” said Han and Parker.
“Joe worked on the mechanical design and competition strategy, Tommy handled the mechanical assembly, Dan documented the design process, worked on mechanical assembly and was Mr Rules, Steven is the Team Captain, programmer and mechanical designer. Jeremy Valshtein also contributed helping wherever he could, raising funds and serving as travel manager. They all played a role in strategy,” said Meola.
The relatively new group is comprised of seniors who have already completed both Robotics I and II.
They are still in the process of deciding their plans for next year.
Viola is planning to attend MIT, Carnegie Mellon University or Worchester Polytechnic Institute for Robotic Engineering.
Han said “Robotics is a mixture of electrical and mechanical engineering. The club has taught me a lot of things and it is really fun to combine my two interests.” Han indicated he has applied to Georgia Tech, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, TCNJ, Boston University and Stevens Institute of Technology. While he is not sure where he will go to school, he intends to pursue electrical and computer engineering.
Parker also said he intends to study engineering and has applied to NJIT, Stevens Institute of Technology, Rutgers, Penn State and Harvard. He said, “Robotics taught me what engineering is, not just theory.” When asked about the best part of the competitions Parker responded, “I like it all. The competition is great. You get to learn from others too.” His thoughts on going to KY; “It’s expensive, but it will be worth it.” He added, “Mr Meola is a great teacher. He is the heart and soul of the team.”
Teacher and mentor Meola said, “Going to Worlds will also be good exposure for the boys.” He said there will be people from colleges and organizations that will be looking to offer scholarship money and to recruit for their engineering programs.
Meola said, "It has been an outstanding academic and life experience to partner with such dedicated and capable students. I am proud of them not simply because of their technical achievements which are numerous but also because they have done it with character, integrity and an unselfish drive to see even their competitor do well and help them when they could. In my estimation they are among the finest students that not only Sparta has to offer but our country as well."
The event will take place at the Kentucky Exposition Center from April 15 through 18. Anyone can donate to the fundraising website.