Following the path blazed by Staples High, Westport’s middle schools’ robotics team snagged 2 first-place medals at last weekend’s First Lego League state championship, held at Central Connecticut State University. They also picked up cash, from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
The boys — yes, unfortunately, they’re all male — topped nearly 200 teams to win both the Robotics Performance and Robotics Programming categories.
It’s an impressive accomplishment for 12- and 13-year-olds. The event is technically difficult, and highly competitive. They worked for months after school, researching, designing and programming their robots. (They also have many other activities — 7 of the 9, for example, play soccer.)
What makes the gold medals even more impressive is that their coaches — Steve Diorio and Mike Durkin — know absolutely nothing about robotics or programming. The boys teach themselves, by reading and watching YouTube videos. The adults basically say, “Way to go, guys.”
There’s one more intriguing element to this story. Despite Westport’s now-global reputation in high school robotics — Staples’ team has won a world championship — there is no high school robotics course. There’s no corporate sponsorship of the club (which itself does not even have formal status).
The Middle School Robotics Club — now in its 2nd year — marks the first formal school system support of the activity.
The 1st-place team is called the Mechanical Masterminds. Members include Coleytown 7th graders Nick Ambrose, Rob Diorio, Nicholas Durkin, John McNab, Daniel Westphal, Josh Zhang and Andy Zhang, and Coleytown 7th grader Justin Schmidt and 8th grader Sunil Green.
A 2nd Westport middle school group — Team SNAP — took home the 2nd place Champions Award. They’re completely independent. Members include Coleytown students Theo Davis, Dan Kleine, Nathanael Metke, Kiran Nandagopal and Luke Sauer. The coach is Terry Sauer.
Congratulations to all the young champions. And their robots, too.