Middlesex County Robotics Team Wins In Moscow, Prepares For World Championship

MIDDLESEX COUNTY — After an impressive victory in Moscow, a Middlesex County robotics team is preparing to contend for the world championship next month in St. Louis.

Say Watt?, an Edison team that includes 10 students from the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies, as well as students from J.P. Stevens High in Edison and Metuchen High School, won the Russian National FIRST Tech Challenge Championship last month in Moscow.

The win in Russia qualified the privately run team to compete in the world championship for the fourth straight year. Competitors in Moscow included teams from Russia, Romania, Mexico and the United States.

The members of Say Watt? include Edison Academy seniors Frankie Carr of Edison, Chris Vincent of Milltown, Yash Parekh of Monroe, Tahrima Rahman of Iselin and Sanmesh Udhayakumar of Metuchen; junior Varun Gupta of Edison; sophomores Hima Tammineedi and Ayushi Pathak, both of Edison, and Ronit Charma of Iselin, and freshman Nicole Carr of Edison; J.P. Stevens sophomore Stephen Chan and freshman Parag Sheth, and Metuchen senior Jake Silverman.

The team was founded by Jim and Stella Carr, parents of Frankie and Nicole, when Frankie first expressed an interest in robotics and they found that the closest team was in Brick Township. Jim Carr, an engineer himself, praised the cooperation of the administration and faculty at the Edison Academy, one of the seven high schools in the Middlesex County Vocation and Technical School District.

“A lot of what they teach at Middlesex Academy is directly relevant to what we do,” Carr said. “Our kids have taken what they’ve learned at the Academy and applied it and have continued to learn. It’s been a great partnership with the school.”

The team has won numerous state championships in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The nonprofit organization also fields a second team, Watt the Hex?, made up of less experienced members, and funds its efforts with dues, parental support and sponsors. The teams appear at community fairs and other events and frequently lend their expertise by conducting workshops in robotics and related disciplines, such as computer programming.

Carr cites connections to nearby tech companies and the team’s success in creating opportunities for the members.

“We have managed to get the kids a number of internships where they work as engineers in the summer, getting a feel for what the work is like,” he said.

Say Watt? will warm up for the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship, to be held April 24-27 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, by hosting a tournament April 13 at DeVry University in North Brunswick. Carr said the world championship competition will include more than 100 teams from around the world.

“It’s pretty intense,” he said.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization that stimulates young people’s interest in science, technology, math and engineering by organizing robotics competitions. The events emphasize teamwork and good sportsmanship.

The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first vocational school district in the nation, has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge. Perth Amboy Vo-Tech has been named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2012, and the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies in Edison was singled out as one of the nation’s best high schools by U.S. News & World Report for the fourth consecutive time, receiving Bronze Medal honors in the magazine’s ranking of the nation’s best public high schools for 2012. The district will mark its centennial in 2014.

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