Stupendous STEM Clubs Step Into the Spotlight

By Nymeesh Sreedharala and Kumpu Ide

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Robotics: Mr. Parrinello

Crosscurrents: How long have you been an adviser of the Robotics Club?

Parrinello: “Back in 2003-2005, I was an adviser for [our district’s team for] the FIRST Robotics Competition, which is a worldwide competition. We were the 566th team, but now there is over 5000 teams worldwide. That was a large scale robotics competition, where robots could be as large as 36 inches square and up to 120 pounds. Today, we’re involved in the VEX Robotics Competition, which is a smaller robotics competition, and I’ve been adviser of that for 3 years.”

Crosscurrents: What motivated you to start the Robotics Club?

Parrinello: “I enjoy mechanical things and working with my hands, working with tools, and I enjoy engineering as a whole. My choice to take on this position was something I embraced because I feel like it’s a great challenge for both myself and for students.”

Crosscurrents: What does one do in Robotics Club?

Parrinello: “We are faced with engineering challenges. Those students have kits of parts, metal, motors, wires, electronics, computer programming, and they have to build robots to perform or fill these engineering tasks. For example, an engineering task may be climbing stairs, lifting blocks, moving objects of certain dimensions, so the students have to construct a robot to fulfill the actual requirement of that task.”

Crosscurrents: Could you describe the competition that Robotics Club takes part in?

Parrinello: “The current robotics competition for 2018-19 is called Turning Point. Turning Point is a challenge for students to build a robot that can turn over these plastic, two coloured “caps,” one side is red, the other side is blue. The robot has to be able to flip these caps over to reveal the color of the team that they are on. Secondly, the robot has to shoot plastic balls and hit “flags” that are elevated to specific heights. The robot also has to carry itself and propel itself or move itself onto these platforms of different elevations. So the students are faced with a lot of challenges this year in fulfilling Turning Point.”

Crosscurrents: How could one get involved and how often do you meet?

Parrinello: “So the robotics club is open to any students who want to get involved. The commitment that is required by the robotics club is that students put in and devote their time to building, programming, and having some part in different areas of the club. The club is not open for students who are not willing to devote their time and get their hands involved in the construction, the programming, or the task at hand. We meet twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Crosscurrents: Do you need any prerequisites to join Robotics Club?

Parrinello: “There aren’t any prerequisites. Obviously a student who has experience with construction, mechanical engineering, or any type of computer programming would be welcomed into the club, but no, there is no prerequisite. Anyone is welcome to join the club. It’s a great club and we want students to get involved.”

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Math Team: Mr. Sullivan & Ms. Sajewicz

Crosscurrents: How long have you been an adviser of Math Team?

Sullivan: “This is my third year. Ms. Monthie [oversaw it] for many years and she retired three and a half years ago.”

Sajewicz: “3 years.”

Crosscurrents: What motivated you to become an adviser for Math Team?

Sullivan: “The questions I saw were so difficult. I guess because there was a need. I thought some of the upper level math teachers would be more qualified, but Ms Monthie said, ‘You’ll be able to do it’. She chose me and that was an honor that I was chosen to do it. She chose Ms. Sajewicz to do it too.”

Sajewicz: “I enjoy math and I thought it would be fun to help other kids do math.”

Crosscurrents: What does one do in Math Team?

Sullivan: “What we normally do, if we don’t have a meet, is we practice meet questions and we choose different meets, usually county meets, they are the harder ones. I chose the first week of the year from 2003/2004. It was so hard I’ll never go back there again. It was too hard.”

Sajewicz: “Every week, we do practice questions, and then we go to meets once a month.”

Crosscurrents: Could you describe the competition that Math Team takes part in?

Sullivan: “Math team takes part in state meets, once a month starting in October. We have a county meet in October at Port Jeff High School. We have five county meets. We go to Port Jeff, Ward Melville, our home meet, Ward Melville, and then we go to Comsewogue at the end of the season.”

Sajewicz: “Once a month, we go to different schools and we do competitions with other teams. There’s two teams of five, normally, and we just do a bunch of questions. In January we normally go to the Suffolk County Math Tournament at Suffolk County Community College.”

Crosscurrents: How could one get involved and how often do you meet?

Sullivan: “We meet every Monday, as long as we have school, up in room 211. Anyone can join; it doesn’t matter whether 9th through 12th., because the 9th graders are going to learn the style of questions and start getting them right. We have a big influx of 11th graders this year.”

Sajewicz: “We meet every Monday for the whole year until April or May and we meet the same day every week, it doesn’t matter [when they join].”

Crosscurrents: Do you need any prerequisites to join Math Team?

Sullivan: “Usually, you should be a honors math student, because I haven’t seen anybody stay very long if they haven’t been a honors math student. The questions are just so high level that they end up dropping out [of the club]. Even a lot of the honors kids with drop out [of the club], seeing how hard the questions are.”

Sajewicz: “No, you can start in 9th grade and it’s fine.”

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Science Olympiad: Mr. Moore

Crosscurrents: How long have you been an adviser for Science Olympiad?

Moore: “I have been a Science Olympiad adviser for the past 2 years and 4 years prior to that.”

Crosscurrents: What motivated you to become adviser of Science Olympiad?

Moore: “I was asked one afternoon by a former chemistry teacher to help with Science Olympiad and I truly enjoyed working with students outside of class on various interesting topics.”

Crosscurrents: Could you describe the competition that Science Olympiad takes part in?

Moore: “Science Olympiad competes in a regional competition in late January. There are various prescribed topics that students compete in pairs. Some topics are test based, while others are build based.  The top 8 schools, out of approximately 42 other schools in suffolk county would then go to state competition.”

Crosscurrents: How could one get involved and how often do you meet?

Moore: “One could get involved by researching topics at the regional competition and attending science olympiad meetings.”

Crosscurrents: Do you need any prerequisites to join Science Olympiad?

Moore: “Prerequisites include a love for science and multiple science classes, depending on the topic of the chosen event.”