By Steven Nielsen

The crowd erupted in a roar as a large group of supporters could not contain their excitement at the announcement that John F. Kennedy Middle School’s Robotic Raccoons would advance to the finals. It was an exciting afternoon as team members also received the judges award for their overall combined high scores at this year’s FIRST LEGO Robotics Competition held on Superbowl Sunday at Central Islip High School. It is the second year in a row this team of 10 has qualified for the finals, which will be held Feb. 28 at Longwood High School.

This year’s tournament theme was called Trash Trek. While the students attended several field trips to the Town of Brookhaven, Maggio Sanitation, Covanta Energy Facility and the Caithness energy generation plant, they learned the ins and outs of trash to prepare for their competition presentation. In addition the team created an online survey that analyzed the recycling habits of the Comsewogue school community, which is being used to improve the recycling habits of the students at the Middle School.  Oh yeah, they had to build and program a robot too!

That’s right, in addition to field trips, research and presentation preparation, these students have been meeting in and out of school for the past several months working on the construction and programming of a LEGO robot to perform tasks relating to trash. The missions, as the programs are called, are completed on a 4-foot by 8-foot playing field, which was part of the competition. Missions such as TFM, salvage, clean-up and demolition required the team to program the robot to rescue LEGO sea animals, move a LEGO garbage truck and retrieve methane loops to name a few. The team had a blast and will be working toward improving its performance at the finals. Go JFK! More information about the competition can be found at