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York City's robotics team takes first in regional competition

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

York City's one and only robotics team — aimed at encouraging kids to pursue science, technology, engineering and math — ended its season with an award-winning finish.

Members of RoboThinkers, a free after-school program provided by Young Thinkers of York, build and program robots using Lego pieces. The robots are used in competitions throughout the season.

The team finished its season strong with a first place win in the programming category at a regional competition in Berks County. 

"To win the award was totally unexpected, even though we knew we did some very unique and advanced programming," said Ray Ames, RoboThinkers' coach. "Our programming was excellent; it shined above everybody else in that category." 

The competition was held Jan. 25 at Penn State Berks. More than 350 students, representing 51 teams from across the region, participated in the event, Ames said. 

Four aspects of the competition were judged: robot design, core values of teammates, a project and robot games.

Ames said the main goal of RoboThinkers is to introduce students to STEM in a digestible, fun way that encourages learning.

This year's roster on RoboThinkers includes Evan Dunams, 13; Jahziah Ford, 12; Armani Hill, 13; Ooreofe Malomo, 10; Cheyenne Minichino, 11; and Beautiful Williams, 11.

Jahziah Ford, 12, of the RoboThinkers youth robotics team set up the team robot for a run,  Monday, January 26, 2020. The team recently placed first place in Programming and fifth in points during the Robot Games in Reading.
John A. Pavoncello photo

While Jahziah and Armani agree they like more technical aspects of being on the team — such as programming and building robots — Cheyenne likes the education and career boost RoboThinkers gives her. 

"My favorite part is this whole thing in general, it's just fun to do and it can also help you with your career choice if you're really interested in engineering," Cheyenne said. "It gives you a step up."

While this is Armani's first season with RoboThinkers, Jahziah and Cheyenne are both returning members. 

"It's pretty nice being on this team," Armani said. "Everybody has fun and we all get along pretty well."

Cheyenne Minichino, 12 left, and Jahziah Ford, 12, of the RoboThinkers youth robotics team set up their robot for a run,  Monday, January 26, 2020. The team recently placed first place in Programming and fifth in points during the Robot Games in Reading.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Jessica Wells, Jahziah's mother, said she appreciates the RoboThinkers program since there isn't anything similar available in her daughter's school district.

"The school district doesn't have a program like this," Wells said. "It's really important that we have programs like this for kids. It helps them train for real-life experiences they'll have as an adult."

While coaching the RoboThinkers, Ames serves as the executive director for Young Thinkers of York, a nonprofit youth organization aimed at educating and motivating young children to understand robotics and engineering.

"The way we introduce STEM is through robotics. We try to give that introduction and do it in a fun way," Ames said.

Armani Hill, 13 at left, Jahziah Ford, 12, and Cheyenne Minichino, 12 right, of the RoboThinkers youth robotics team set up their robot for a run,  Monday, January 26, 2020. The team recently placed first place in Programming and fifth in points during the Robot Games in Reading.
John A. Pavoncello photo

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.