At the October 22nd Half Hollow Hills Board of Education meeting, the Budah Family of Park Shore presented the district with a $25,000 check to sponsor the HHH Thundercolts Robotics team. Newly established to Park Shore for Summer 2013 is The Science Academy, a specialty program for second through fifth grades, in two-to-eight week sessions, focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education, inclusive of a robotics component.
Chuck and Bob Budah, both HHH graduates, expressed their commitment “to give back to the school district.” The shared experience will benefit high school robotics students who will intern at The Science Academy, while providing an intensive hands-on science experience for the younger, inquisitive students.
The HHH Thundercolts Robotics team was established in 2010 with then Science Director John O’Farell (presently Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education), along with High School Physics Teachers Julian Aptowitz and Christian Mirchel. They initiated Half Hollow Hills’ participation in the National FIRST (an acronym "For Inspiration and Respect for Science and Technology) Robotics Competition as a joint Hills East and West team, thus the combined name ‘Thundercolts.’ With the help of volunteer mentor engineers, mostly team parents, the Thundercolts undertook the arduous task of designing, building, and programming a 130-pound competition robot. FIRST was founded 20 years earlier by Inventor-Engineer Dean Kamen who was the creator of The Segway.
The competition draws thousands of teams to Regional and National Championship competitions worldwide. The Thundercolts participated in their inaugural event at the 2010 SBPLI Regional held at Hofstra University. The Thundercolts’ original robot, nicknamed "AptowitzPrime" by the team, was selected as "Rookie All-Stars" at the Regional event, qualifying them for participation in the National Championship in St. Louis, Missouri. A total of 27 student team members traveled to St. Louis for the weekend competition.
In the 2011/2012 school year, the HHH robotics team grew to more than 80 members. The team spread the message of FIRST, taking AptowitzPrime on a District-wide tour, with the robot even included in the homecoming parades of East and West. The team visited district elementary schools giving the primary students an opportunity to drive AptowitzPrime! Additional corporate funding and support was granted from several local businesses.
The Thundercolts will once again compete in April at the SBPLI Regionals at Hofstra, and plan to also participate in March Regionals in Richmond, Virginia, doubling their opportunity to return to Nationals.