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Albert Gallatin again among top teams nationally in robotics competition

Members of the Albert Gallatin AP Computer Science class who took part in the Zero Robotics competition include (from left, front) instructor Mary Ann Hughes, Ben Rozzi, Jason Hotsinpiller, and Justin Myers; (back) Chris Smith, Drew Colebank, Tom Mc Knight, Joe Gabeletto, Joe Davis, Joe Borsodi and principal Jason Hutchinson.

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Saturday, March 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Showing that a small school can create big results, students from the Albert Gallatin High school once again made an impressive showing in their participation in the Zero Robotics competition.

Zero Robotics is an international on-line robotics computer programming competition in which participants compete against each other to win a technically challenging game by programming their strategies into Synchronized Position Hold Exchange Reorient Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, robots.

“They were really interested in doing it again this year,” Albert Gallatin AP Computer Science teacher Mary Ann Hughes said of her students who took part in the competition. “I told them about it at the beginning of the school year, and they were excited to do it.”

The competition is hosted annually by MIT and NASA and works with real-world problems that are faced by satellites that are based within the International Space Station.

Almost 100 teams from the United States and 47 teams from foreign countries participated in the competition, and all were given a Zero Robotics challenge, with students then having to design, implement, and then operate their solution.

The students worked on the program since the beginning of the school year and were informed that they were in the top nine nationwide, winning them a trip to MIT in Boston where they got to see their programs run on the SPHERES robots aboard the International Space Station.

“Zero Robotics taught me a few things, the biggest being that a small group of coders in their junior year at a high school can do something big,” junior Jason Hotsinpiller said. “I also learned how much of an impact programming has on the real work. In a classroom you don't realize its power.”

While it is admirable that the Albert Gallatin students made such a great showing in the completion, what is truly impressive is that they ranked in the top teams for the second year in a row.

“At times, it's entirely astonishing to think that a team based out of Uniontown, Pa., could reach for the stars” and achieve their dreams, senior Ben Rozzi said. “But we strived, we worked and we achieved, and we did something that no one even believed possible, and then we did it a second time.”

The students' achievements have not gone unnoticed in the district, as high school Principal Jason Hutchinson stated his pride for the team and how their great example has led the school.

“What these students have done says a lot,” Hutchinson said. “These kids competed with students from all over the world, and not only did they hold their own, they came out in the top. We're very proud of them as students and as representatives of our district.”

The students will next participate in an event offered by Carnegie Mellon University, a nationwide high school computer security competition that will take place April 26 through May 3.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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