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Short Hills Robotics Teams Advance to State Final

Multiple Robotics Teams from Short Hills will participate in the First Lego League State Final on Dec. 14, after coming up big at the Bridgewater-Raritan Brik Rampage last month.

The Hartshorn I-Robots team huddle with Head Coach Zhong Li. Photos courtesy of Varianny Kapur.
The Hartshorn I-Robots team huddle with Head Coach Zhong Li. Photos courtesy of Varianny Kapur.
Submitted by Varianny Kapur.

Three robotics teams from Short Hills triumphed at the Bridgewater-Raritan Brik Rampage, the region’s qualifying competition for FIRST Lego League, on Nov. 23. Twenty-two teams from the area competed at the event, themed “Nature’s Fury,” in hopes of advancing to the FLL state finals on December 14.

The MonsterBots team, comprised of Deerfield Elementary School fifth graders Sheen Patel, William Qin and Sachin Sahay, fourth graders Sophia Klymchuk and Ishaan Salhotra, and third grader Andrew Overdeck, won the “Champion Award” for earning top scores in all four categories of judging. This included the “robot game,” where their robot had to perform tasks such as moving small Lego vehicles to specific positions on the table. They were also judged on in-depth face-to-face interviews about robot design, their community project, and their core values working as a team. 

Teams have to score in the top 40% in all four categories to advance to the state finals.

A second Short Hills team, the Hartshorn I-Robots, also earned this distinction, and will advance to state finals with the MonsterBots and five other teams. The I-Robots team included Hartshorn Elementary School fifth graders Brendan Near and Jake Updyke, fourth graders Dhruv Kapur, Shiangtian (TT) Li, Brandon Recce, Burke Seeger, and Elysee Wolf, and third grader Simon Pearl. 

Thor's Hammer, a third team hailing from Hartshorn Elementary, won a category award for having the second highest robot game score.  A fourth team from Hartshorn, Furious Minds, participated in the competition as well. 

The results were particularly notable given that all the Short Hills teams were among the youngest in the FLL age bracket, which encompasses ages 9-14.

“Not only did the kids have lot of fun building and programming their own robot, but they also got to research a real-life problem as a team,” said MonsterBots coach Neetu Salhotra.

Based on input from Township Business Administrator Timothy Gordon and Red Cross Executive Director Christine Hodde, the MonsterBots team developed a disaster-relief board game that teaches players about natural disaster preparedness and post-disaster behavior. 

Hartshorn Principal Kenneth Frattini stated he was was “very proud of his students, especially since this was their first year competing in the FLL.”

Zhong Li, head coach of Hartshorn I-Robots stated, “It is tremendously satisfying to see our kids jumping up and down after the announcement. They have worked very hard for the past ten weeks and put in countless hours for this competition.” 

Founded over 20 years ago by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST LEGO League is a not-for-profit robotics program for 9- to 14-year-olds, designed to get children excited about science and technology and to teach them valuable employment and life skills. FLL’s partners host official FLL tournaments annually around the world, attended last year by over 180,000 participants. This year's tournament featured the theme "Nature's Fury," for which robots had to tackle models of natural disaster aftermath.  More information can be found at the First Lego League's website.

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