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Robotics team uses skills to help others

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Robotics team uses skills to help others
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After months of brainstorming, building and practicing, robotics teams from across New York State are showing off their work. Thirty-six teams of middle and high school students are competing this weekend at Pace University's FIRST Tech Challenge Championship. But one team from the Mohawk Valley says winning isn't everything. Our Cara Thomas tells us how these kids use what they've learned to help others.

UTICA, N.Y. -- The RoboSpartans were given a challenge: Create a robot that can transfer rings to different posts while also being able to lift another robot off the ground, all within two minutes.

"We put a lot of hard work into the robot. It's never really done," said Zachary Goldsmith, RoboSpartans' Lead Programmer.

The team has been perfecting their robot for months and on Sunday at the Hudson Valley Championship at Pace University, they were ready to show off what they'd made.

But these kids do more than just compete with their robot, they use it as a tool to reach out and mentor other kids in the area.

Goldsmith said, "We do fundraisers, mentoring other teams, just about anything to help or spread the message of FIRST."

Outreach and community service is a core value of the FIRST Tech Challenge program. And students are expected to take part. But the RoboSpartans go above and beyond.

Bob Payne, RoboSpartans' Coach, said, "Since May of this years, this team, seven boys, have put in close to 1,500 hours of outreach in the community."

One of their new activities is to help kids with cerebral palsy, showing them how to operate a sumo robot.

Mike Betro, RoboSpartans' Robot Driver, said, "It's a lot like mentoring except it's a little bit more difficult because you're dealing with this whole new perspective, people you don't normally interact with."

This team has gained leadership and teamwork skills and learned how to apply math and science concepts to everyday situations, while also learning valuable lessons about life, while they say they would have never learned elsewhere.

The robotics season is far from over for the RoboSpartans. Because of all their hard work, both on their robot and in the community, the RoboSpartans received the Inspire Award while competing at Clarkson University. That qualifies them for the World Championships in St. Louis in April.

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