On Sunday, January 31, Westfield Robotics teams Positive Charge and That Hertz competed at Hightstown High School along with 33 other First Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics teams in the sixth annual “Snow Day Showdown.” The teams battled for numerous awards and points in order to advance to the New Jersey State Championship Tournament in February.

At the competition, Positive Charge and That Hertz ran into technical difficulties with their robots and formidable opponents.  As a result, neither team was highly ranked due to their performance during the matches.

The awards ceremony was the key to victory, as neither of the Westfield teams were able to advance to the final match and qualify for the State Championship based on their performance in the matches alone.  Anticipation was high as the members waited to hear of their awards and nominations, which could ensure advancement to the State Championship among the seven teams selected.

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The Westfield teams were confident, as they had sought out various outreach opportunities to spread their love of robotics in the community, which is imperative in order to advance. The teams’ outreach events included presenting at Sunrise Assisted Living on numerous occasions, teaching code lessons to students at McKinley Elementary School, and speaking at the Tamaques Elementary School STEM Day.

Soon, the Westfield teams’ fates were solidified. The judges announced That Hertz was in second place for the Connect Award, praising the team’s ambitious and excellent outreach endeavors, as well as their ability to connect with the community and the aspect of business.  

Positive Charge not only won the Think Award but also won third place for the most prestigious robotics award, the Inspire Award. The Think Award recognizes the unique and innovative solutions of a team for challenges they faced while building the robot. The judges raved over the team’s notebook, which outlined their journey over the season, and were especially impressed with the rookie team’s presentation skills and teamwork.  As a result, Positive Charge was able to advance to the State Championship.

“We were nominated for Inspire because our team does outreach [events in] the community … [and] teaches our … team to enjoy ... and continue with robotics,” reflected Anna Glueck.

The Inspire Award is the most difficult award to win in all FTC robotics competitions and recognizes a team’s determination, intellect, spirit, and above all, passion.

“It’s imperative to understand that it doesn't matter what your robot is ranked, or what place you're in. Hard work and perseverance will yield success,” Linzy Rosen revealed.

“Robotics has really changed my life for the better,” shared Ashley Rosen. “There is a great sense of community and the other teams are always more than willing to lend a helping hand.” FTC not only offers a mental challenge but also an accepting community devoted to spreading knowledge and passion to all teams of all ages involved.

To Positive Charge, winning the awards was solely the icing on the cake. The team unanimously agrees that they still enjoyed the competitions at which they did not win awards and have learned a plethora of knowledge outside the sphere of robotics, such as spirit and innovative thinking.

That Hertz concurs.  Although the team did not advance to the State Championship with Positive Charge, they could not withhold their gratitude and appreciation for the competitions FTC has offered them this year. They are excited for more challenges and success in future years to come.

After asked to share his feelings about the recent qualifier and the progress of his team throughout the season, Neil Mahkija, the captain of That Hertz and a current senior who is participating in FTC for his fourth and final year, stated, “The team did fantastic at the past qualifier. I couldn't ask more of them. … I am confident they … [will] continue Westfield's fantastic legacy [once] I graduate … and will be more successful than ever.”

The main goal for the Westfield Robotics club members is to improve oneself while gaining new experiences. Learning from past experiences is one of the most important skills to obtain for achieving success in FTC and life as a whole.

“After being a part of [this club] for some time, I have learned much,” added Josh Ballecer, a freshman and first year member. “The lesson that stuck with me while being here was that teamwork is crucial to make a team succeed. … I intend to [stay] with [this club] for the remainder of my high school experience.” Robotics provides new insights and lasting impressions. With the help of more experienced members, new members can learn skills to use in the future, and members can help each other based on their individual strengths.

FTC offers a great opportunity for any teenager, no matter the level of expertise. In order for competitions to run smoothly to such degree, volunteers step up to judge and run the day. The Westfield Robotics teams express their appreciation to all the parents who continually volunteer and make the season a success.