Students compete as bots do their bidding

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Rectangular wheeled platforms covered in a complex network of wiring, metal and plastic jerked across the arena, bumping into each other in an effort to pick up the white, red and blue blow-up tubes that littered the floor. 

Students, standing behind a clear barrier, fervidly pushed their controllers while their fellow teammates, dressed in colorful costumes, loud jewelry and crazy hats, cheered, squealed and chanted. 

It was the New York City FIRST Robotics Competition at the Javits Center where, last weekend, students competed in an arena with robots they spent six weeks designing and building. 

The Bronx High School of Science had two teams at the competition — the co-ed Sciborgs and the all-girls Fe Maidens, or Iron Maidens for those who know that Fe stands for iron on the Periodic Table of Elements. 

While neither team made it to the championships, the Fe Maidens got to the semifinal round when they were chosen by one of the top eight teams to create an alliance, or group of teams that compete together. The Fe Maidens also won the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Entrepreneurship Award, awarded to the team with a strong, comprehensive business plan. At the New Jersey FIRST Robotics Competition a few weeks ago, junior Francesca Arcidiacono of the Fe Maidens won the Dean’s List Award for her “outstanding leadership and effectiveness.” 

Regardless of the end result, Science students working diligently at the competition on March 12 seemed to be having a blast.

“Not only are the Fe Maidens a close family, it’s also an experience you can use to further your horizons,” Bronx Science freshman Nicole Jung said.

Each match, which ran for two minutes and 15 seconds, pitted three robots from various schools against another team of three. The team whose three robots picked up the most inflated tubes and put them on metal pegs on a wall got the most points. During the first 15 seconds, the robots had to move on their own and students were not allowed to touch the controllers. If a team’s robot was able to pick up a tube without any help and put it on a peg they would earn extra points. 

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