As 12th grader Noam Avutbul deftly maneuvers his team’s shiny new robot across the playing field, his 13 team members breathlessly follow the robot’s every move. In the coming weeks, these Boys Town Jerusalem High School students will enter the robot in the prestigious Israel FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) competition to spar against contestants from across the country. Yet one victory is already theirs: the 2021 team has overcome unprecedented challenges every step of way.

Corona postponed the competion

“Corona changed everything,” declares team captain Noam, who has been on the BTJ Robotics team within the school’s Follender Robotics Program for six years.

“When the campus was closed for months, we had to invent a virtual workplace via Zoom to design and build the robot.”

The FTC team had to innovate

As the campus sporadically opened, the team members put in long hours after school – donning masks and “distanced” – to personally fine-turn the robot’s performance.

The FTC Israel competition scheduled for July (after a postponement) is now being preceded by several practice meets between teams. Noam proudly notes that the BTJ robot will be debuting its long, sophisticated “arm” specially programmed and built to improve its performance in carrying out a series of tasks in competition with other teams.

A crucial aspect of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) contest is to encourage teamwork and respect for others. Despite keen Corona challenges, the BTJ students devoted time and effort to mentoring a brand-new robotics team from Ashdod. “We’ll be competing against them, but working together was a great experience for all.”

Hopes are high for the BTJ team

Noam Abutbul had imagined that his senior year would be the zenith of six years of effort and accomplishments in his studies and in his beloved BTJ Robotics team. Ultimately, COVID 19 disrupted everything but Noam’s spirit.

“My Computer Programming major already involves sitting in front of a screen, so Zoom studies were fine. And our Robotics team has had more practice than any team before in innovating, teamwork and caring. We’re champions!

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