Sometime during the upcoming 2019 MLB season the New York Yankees will get a glimpse of what its future talent pool may look like when a ‘bot’ throws out the game’s first pitch.
The event will mark Morris High School robotics team’s 20th anniversary. The celebrated robotics team has come a very long way since Windows 98.
First booted up by Morris High School business teacher Gary Israel in 1999, it was the Bronx’ first ever robotics team and it had a lot to prove.
After winning countless competitions, earning sponsorships from the New York Yankees and Bloomberg, in addition to landing a workspace at Columbia University’s school of Engineering, the Morris High School team did just that.
Now called 2TrainRobotics, it’s nothing but business for the 30-plus student squad under the tutelage of Columbia lab manager, Bob Stark as they begin preparations for the Saturday, January 5 kickoff to the season.
It’s then that 2TrainRobotics along with their competition will learn the parameters of what they will be building and tinkering with over the following six weeks.
Played out in an indoor arena about the size of a tennis court, the competitions usually entail skill trials for the robots, rather than having them go on a destructive rampage.
“It’s not like battle bots where the objective is to destroy the other team’s robot,” said Columbia engineering student and 2TrainRobotics mentor Noah Silverstein. “Although it’s definitely a contact sport,” the mentor added.
Last year’s major competition involved the robots stacking up cubes and other similar tasks.
Being that this year’s big event takes place at Columbia, 2TrainRobotics has somewhat of a home field advantage.
Right now in the ‘preseason,’ teammates are practicing on their 120 pound, 10-foot tall extending bot, Zoidberg, named for the eccentric ‘Futurama’ character.
With a top speed of 15 feet per second, the bot runs on two stick controls like that of a dated military tank in addition to a modified Xbox controller that handles Zoidberg’s abilities.
While most of those abilities come from its student-made artificial intelligence that gives it the ability to pick up objects independently, the Xbox controller can extend and contract the bot’s extensive neck.
It also has it’s own Wi-Fi network and series of micro-cameras.
While all of that is comprehensive enough, building and running the robot is the easiest part of being on the team, according to Silverstein.
“Students have to market the robot, budget for what it will cost, promote it through social media, organize community events, recruit sponsors and new teammates, meet quotas in addition to so much more,” Silverstein said. “It’s really like running a business and the product, in this case the robot, is only one of many components,” he added.
At one of those community events Jarrell Dukes from Co-op City, who has a special interest in propulsion engineering and coding, joined the team.
He’s one of many new recruits from other schools around the Bronx and the city, now that 2TrainRobotics has expanded to allow just about any city student with an interest in robotics.
2TrainRobotics members have a 100% high school graduation rate. Many return as mentors to advise the future teams.
The team is now designing another robot for this upcoming season, which is scheduled to be showcased before a Bronx Bombers game.