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Clairton students head to prom, then national robotics event

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 3:51 a.m.

Two robotics teams will represent Clairton High School at the National BotsIQ competition this weekend, and all of their expenses have been paid thanks to several donors.

Team Bazinga and Team Mega Nuke will board a bus bound for Indianapolis Friday night after prom, then compete Saturday and Sunday.

The team raised nearly $2,000 of the $5,000 needed for transportation, entrance fees, meals and other costs.

Donations poured in after the Clairton teams' accomplishments were publicized in The Daily News and other media outlets and letters from the school district.

“It just became almost a grass-roots effort,” district spokesperson Alexis Trubiani said.

The Clairton teams earned spots at the nationals with 47 other schools by taking home four awards at the Regional BotsIQ competition at California University of Pennsylvania last month.

Team Bazinga won all six of its matches to earn first place for competition dominance, and was named Grand Champion for its overall performance, its documentation, team interviews and other factors.

Eliza Sopko captains the team, which includes co-captain Bianca Pulliam and driver Zack Loera.

Team Mega Nuke won for its sportsmanship and coolest robot design. Garrett Santoline is captain and driver with Amanda Gillespie.

“The students can't believe it,” Trubiani said. “We're just in shock and awe.”

Through fundraising and donations, Clairton's robotics program now has more than $30,000. That is enough not only to cover the trip's expenses, but to fund the program for next school year and possibly expand it to the middle school.

“This is nice to know that this program has longevity,” Trubiani said. “It's not just good for the robotics team. This is wonderful for the entire district.

“It is with great humility and gratitude that the Clairton robotics team and entire district would like to thank our generous supporters throughout the state and nation. Please know that you are appreciated and that you have succeeded in making a difference in the lives of our students,” she said.

Aerotech Inc. vice president for sales and marketing Stephen Botos sent a $2,000 check and encouraging words.

Trubiani said the students were invited to tour the company's O'Hara factory to learn about careers in robotics and automation.

Another donor, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, invited teams to see how robots are used in medicine.

Neya Systems LLC sent a check, and city council approved a $200 donation at its meeting on Tuesday night.

Trubiani said she'll have live updates from the tournament on the district's Facebook and Twitter pages, and more information will be available on the district's website, or by emailing

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 or