Friday, May 02, 2008

St. Clare’s Transformers back from Atlanta!

Hi Norm,

Below is a thank you note I sent to our parish and sponsprs in regard to the World Festival. It kind of sums up the experience.

Just thought I would fill you in how we did! Have lots of great pictures and memories!!! If you could blog this or portion of it, please do so. I thought it would be nice to let other how great is was.

I want to thank you as well for connecting me with Maureen Reilly (who did the story on us for I will send you some photos later. It was truly amazing.

I am sure your trip to Japan for that robotics event abroad will be fantastic! Best of luck to that team as well! Enjoy and thanks...

Mary Lee


St. Clare’s Transformers back from Atlanta!

The St. Clare’s Transformers truly felt it was an honor to represent our school and parish community and all of New York State at this World Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, from April 16-20. The F.I.R.S.T. Robotics event was amazing! Every day was better than the next!

There were so many memorable moments -- meeting people from other countries and sharing ideas with them and learning cultural dances and games, listening to President Bush (Sr.) at the opening ceremonies, singing and dancing in the Georgia Dome and Centennial Park, frolicking about at the Carnival and watching a huge fireworks display, visiting the Georgia Aquarium, CNN and the New World of Coca Cola -- not to mention all the robotics-related events.

In regard to placement with our runs, we scored a 380 (out of 400) and finished close to the top 10 on Day One during the preliminary practice rounds in the FIRST LEGO League competition. On Day Two, we hit a 350 to finish in the middle of the pack (around 40th in a field of 83 teams from around the world). Not bad considering that 24 of those teams were the top teams from their countries and all the others were the top teams in their states. It was awe inspiring looking up into the lively stands from the floor of the Georgia Dome to launch our robots. We also saw the big robots in the high school division, which was another whole learning experience!

Truly the World Festival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For those who attended, may they always carry with them FIRST's message of gracious professionalism and global unity throughout their lives. Only then can we truly make a difference in the world, and certainly that is what St. Clare’s LEGO Robotics is all about.

Not only do our team members serve as active members of the DEP’s Adopt-A-Bluebelt program and assist special needs players in the Challenger division at the Great Kills Little League, but because of our Power Puzzle project, we will now be one of three schools partnering with the Staten Island Zoo's educational staff and the New York Power Authority on a special program next year as we continue to work toward greening our zoo and the community and spreading the power of the LEGO! We have another public presentation on tap on June 21 the Staten Island Museum that is being sponsored by Con Edison from 1 -3 p.m. We plan to make our presentation on alternative energy fun and interactive! All are invited!

We cannot thank everyone at St. Clare's – starting with Monsignor Murphy, Mrs. Rossicone and Mrs. Gallagher -- and all our sponsors enough for their support in our journey to reach the World Festival. Whether you gave a donation or contributed to the fundraisers or just wished us well, you played a key role in making this dream come true for our students.

With sincere gratitude,

Mary Lee, head coach of the St. Clare’s Transformers

Team Transformers includes: Alanna Bergstrom, Adrianno Corso, Katie Geraghty, Ian Grice, Thomas Grimaldi, Matthew Gulotta, Shannon Long, Joseph Maggio, James McKeon, Steven Milazzo, Judy Muller, Meagan O'Connor, Amanda O'Keefe, Michelle Pagano, Christopher Piccirello, Paul Piccirello, James Pugliese and Serena Zinsley, and coaches Mary Lee and Barbara Grimaldi.

Main sponsors include: Con Edison, Verizon, Dr. Anna Marie Olsen, the Staten Island Geological Society, the Knights of Columbus (the Staten Island and Stolzenthaler Councils), Northfield Savings Bank Foundation, Dr. Theodore Atlas Foundation, the Staten Island War Memorial Ice Skating Rink, Special Tees, Holtermann’s Bakery. Special thanks to the McNamara family for its donation in memory of Helen O’Gara, as well as other St. Clare school and parish families.

Packard Collegiate coach Maureen Reilly was at the World Festival and wrote and published a story on the St. Clare’s Robotics team and all the practicing they this year. The online story appears on (The website is

Copy of the story is below:

How do you get to the FLL World Festival? Practice, practice, practice.

Practice, practice, practice is what the St. Clare’s FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team, the Transformers from Staten Island, NY are doing to prepare for the FLL World Festival later this week at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Transformers practice 5 to 6 times a week from 2 to 4 hours per session in the science lab at their school. They practice with multiple robots on multiple tournament tables while working toward that perfect 400 point score. ”The pizza delivery man knows us well, parents send in nourishment, and maintenance is ready to set up cots for us!” says their dedicated coach, Mary Lee.

The Transformers are a team of 18 students, ten boys and eight girls from 11-14 years of age. Most of the team has experience with LEGO MINDSTORMS, participating for 1-3 years in a minor league before joining the ”Majors” (which is the team at St. Clare’s that competes in FLL tournaments). All 18 team members along with their family, friends, and coach are attending the festivities in Atlanta.

”This is the second year that the Transformers are using a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robot. We now recognize the NXT as a more advanced machine with tremendous possibilities,” explains Coach Lee.

About FLL Events
Each year FLL teams embark on an adventurous challenge based on current, real-world issues. Students between 9 and 14 years of age build and program a robot to complete a set number of missions in 21⁄2 minutes (the robot game), present research on a given topic (the research presentation), and share how they designed and programmed their robot (the technical presentation). This year’s FLL theme, “Power Puzzle” challenges teams to use robotics to understand and create solutions for one of today's most critical environmental issues: energy management and conservation.

The Robot Game
The Transformers found the solar panel mission to be the most difficult robot task in the Power Puzzle challenge. Four separate groups of students worked on troubleshooting the mission, each with their own robot. The biggest trouble was getting the solar panel to stay on. ”We finally tackled this by adding extra pieces to the panel that allowed it to hang, and we added little claws that helps it grab on to the roof if it starts to flip over.” Each group helped one other succeed by sharing ideas and building for each other. ”The frustration was high at times, but it brought us closer and taught us to battle together.”

The Transformers are excited that the robots they are taking to the World Festival can score 400 points provided the opposing team does not get the satellite challenge first. Let’s hope the Transformers make it!

The Research Project
The Transformers conducted extensive research in their community on alternative enery options. They visited a home with solar panels to see how they are setup and work. They investigated their school, local zoo, and a bakery, and then researched similar structures in different areas using alternative energy and energy providers. The team even went to the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island to learn about a methane gas collection system and to explore the possibility of using the area as a wind farm. The team saw that fish were dying in a local pond, discovered that the oxygen levels were low and requested that a solar aerator pump be installed as part of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Adopt a Bluebelt program. They also held a public forum on alternative energy for the community and presented their findings on all our research and allowed special guests in the field to speak. The Transformers live up to their name in transforming their community in green ways!

The Technical Presentation
The Transformers played with different robot designs including a horizontal design that they found on NXTLOG. The team played with different attachments, including a big lasso type piece that swings down over the corn and later the uranium to gather those pieces before coming back to base (after it hits the rail car and brings the coal to base). Other attachments include a big box for catching the oil and a flat piece to push objects like the dam and the power line.

For the programming, the team relies on motor rotations and time rather than sensors. Although the robot has a third motor, the team tries to limit its use, using the law of motion to swing an arm forward rather than extra programming. The team also works to multi-task when programming by either reusing programs to complete additional missions, or by completing a number of tasks in one area before returning the robot to base. The students discovered one innovative shortcut by using the robot itself to be the wave turbine, having it end up in the ocean at the end of the 21⁄2 minutes.

The Journey to the World Festival
The team has been busy with practices and fundraising but also finds time to play sports together to ease the pressure of competing on a global level. They also have been practicing some dance moves for a special show in Atlanta. Just last week the Transformers participated in a FLL Tri-State Tournament at the Javits Center in NYC where they not only got a chance for extra pratice, but they met Mayor Mike Bloomburg as well.

While all 18 team members are prepared to play the robot game at the World Festival, some will act as ambassadors and greet attending teams, some will work as team photographers, and others as the pit crew. We look forward to seeing this team in action at the Georgia Dome!

Team Transfromers includes: Alanna Bergstrom, Adrianno Corso, Katie Geraghty, Ian Grice, Thomas Grimaldi, Matthew Gulotta, Shannon Long, Joseph Maggio, James McKeon, Steven Milazzo, Judy Muller, Meagan O'Connor, Amanda O'Keefe, Michelle Pagano, Christopher Piccirello, Paul Piccirello, James Pugliese and Serena Zinsley, and coaches Mary Lee and Barbara Grimaldi.


Anonymous said...

A great team made up of terrific kids!

Anonymous said...

A great team made up of terrific kids!