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Five HHHS Students Join Forces, Earn Robotics Recognition

 Five sophomores from Hendrick Hudson High School teamed up for a robotics competition.

When Braxton Shoults moved to Hendrick Hudson as a high school freshman, he was already an experienced robotics competitor. He first started building and driving robots as an elementary school student in Colorado. He then competed in high-level competitions in middle school.

“Once I came here, I felt like I wanted to start a team here in New York,” he said.

Shoults, who is now a sophomore at Hendrick Hudson High School, accomplished that goal, finding like-minded people in his freshman Intro to Engineering course. The five-man team he helped form had a successful debut earlier this month when they reached the semifinals and received a coveted award in the VEX Robotics Competition at Ridgefield High School.

Shoults teamed with fellow sophomores Max Parker, Matt Mason, Brody Marcus and Nick Lowy for the event, which featured 63 teams, mostly from New England. The team was one of eight to advance to the semifinals, ranked fourth in individual skills, and was selected as the winner of the Excellence Award, which was the highest award presented by VEX at the competition. The award goes to a team that “exemplifies overall excellence in building a high-quality robotics program.”

“This is something that I have really enjoyed,” said Parker, who was one of Shoults’ freshman classmates and hadn’t previously participated in robotics. “I’m really happy to be part of the team.”

During the competition, the team competed in a series of qualification matches. Despite the robot suffering some damage along the way, which was later repaired, the team advanced to the elimination bracket. It paired up with another team for the final stage of the competition.

Those teams were all challenged with the same task: To build a robot that could move a triball — a pyramid-shaped object — to score points.

“Teams are also playing defense,” Shoults said. “It can become challenging strategy wise.”

“You have to have a design philosophy,” Parker added. “Your robot has to be a jack-of-all-trades — shooting, blocking, passing balls around. It has to be able to do everything.”

The team, which is already applying lessons learned at the competition, plans on continuing to compete. Members also hope the interest can one day bring robotics to Hen Hud in the future.

Shoults has already met with Anthony Giovinazzi, the acting principal last school year, and new high school principal Lauren Scollins to advocate for the addition of a robotics club.

“It’s something where I keep trying to get something moving,” Shoults said. “I think we’re making progress.”

“It’s an excellent example of something that can be student-led and student-driven,” said Shoults and Parker’s science teacher, Alan Zollner, of a potential robotics club. “It really makes me proud to be a teacher here at Hen Hud.”