News & Events

Pingry News & Events

More News

In Our Own Words: Alex Strasser '19 and Brian Kaplan '19

For the first time in its history—and following an impressive 14th-place finish at the District event in early April, only its second appearance at the competitive event—Pingry's Robotics Team qualified for the World Robotics Championships, held from April 24-27 in Detroit. Underscoring the rarity of the feat and the work involved to advance to such a level, captains Alex Strasser '19 (pictured, left) and Brian Kaplan '19 (right) were willing to skip Prom to lead their team and represent Pingry at the national competition.

The 10 Pingry students who traveled to Detroit were among the event's 17,000, representing 700 teams (from elementary-aged through high schoolers) from 35 countries. Many had more mentors accompanying them than Pingry had team members! It was a whirlwind four days of intense robotics competition in Detroit's Cobo Center, which included appearances by the founders of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), and even, fortuitously for Alex and Brian, a "RoboProm" at the Renaissance Center. In the end, Pingry Team 2577, led by faculty advisors Jeffrey Jenkins and Christina Lee, finished a very respectable 13th out of 68 teams in the highly competitive Archimedes Division. Alex and Brian share their experience here.

A couple weekends ago, the Pingry Robotics Team had the opportunity to compete in Detroit against more than 400 other high school teams from across the world in the FRC World Championships. FRC, the FIRST Robotics Competition, is a high school competition that begins with the release of a new challenge each year in January, followed by a six week-long build period to construct a robot to meet the challenge, and then multiple competitions to see how well your robot accomplishes the challenge.

First, here's a bit of background. This year's challenge, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, was space themed. Robots competed against each other to fill rockets with cargo (filling plastic structures with large dodgeballs), and climb onto platforms in their "habitat," among other goals. Each robot is part of a randomly assigned three-team alliance each match, and the alliance that scores the most points for accomplishing the most each round wins that match. Our robot this year was able to specialize in climbing onto tall platforms, a particularly valuable component of the challenge. This was how we advanced from our District event, to the Regional event, all the way to the World Championships in Detroit. This was a huge accomplishment, as we have only ever made it to Regionals once, and Worlds seemed out of reach. We are so proud that after four years of being with this team, we can say that it is no longer just a dream to be there.

Once we arrived at the competition, the sheer scale of the venue and number of people involved were indescribable. These were the best teams across the world, from Canada, to Israel, to China, and we recognized a few teams from near us in New Jersey. One of the best parts of Worlds was being able to talk to these teams, learn how their approaches differed from our own, learn which designs worked better than others, and meet people from much different backgrounds than our own. This was one of the main highlights for us across the four days of intense competition.

Our robot performed very well in the competition, placing 13th out of 68 teams in our division, one of the most difficult divisions at Worlds. Competing under that level of competition with the eyes of everyone on you (including some classmates back at Pingry) was a little bit crazy and stressful, but we were able to do our best and worked hard to fix the robot when things went wrong. We weren't selected for the elimination rounds, but felt that we had a really good showing and hope to go back again in future years to try for even better.

Although it's our last year on the team and we will miss being with everyone, we will treasure this experience forever and look forward to seeing all that Pingry Robotics will continue to accomplish in the future.

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer,