Young engineers vie for gold at book-lender’s robotics competition

Kids focusing on the competition.
Photo by Zoe Freilich

A legion of pint-sized robotics gurus flocked to the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch on Saturday to face off in the finals of the book-lender’s Robotics League competition.

The youngsters, who ranged in age from 9 to 17, were grouped into 13 teams that represented their local library branches, and worked together to create robots that competed in various tasks, such as delivering objects and navigating obstacle courses.  

The 13 finalists had been victorious during last week’s 28-team semi-final round, which took place at the Flatbush Library. 

The arena floor.Photo by Zoe Freilich

The program is an interactive way to introduce young would-be coders to programming and engineering, said one 14-year-old participant. 

“I love programming, and I really wanted to get started with it,” said Talib Folberg, who competed with the New Lots branch. “The robotics competition was the best way to get started.”

Folberg helped programmed his team’s bulky grey robot on wheels to perform simple functions while following a line along the course, such as interact with a crane and a swing, or move in a circle. 

The New Lots Library team during the competition.Photo by Zoe Freilich

Saturday’s competition engulfed the usually-quiet grand lobby of the Grand Army Plaza book repository into a chaotic arena of raucous competition, said a library spokeswoman. 

“We think of libraries as quiet places, but on this day people were cheering, we were loud,” said Fritzi Bodenheimer. “Everyone worked really hard, it was dramatic.” 

Now that’s a robot!Photo by Zoe Freilich

Adding to the excitement was the fact that the youngsters were participating purely because of their love for robots, rather than because of a school assignment, said Bodenheimer.

“They enjoy what they’re doing, they enjoy their teammates, and we were just thrilled to have that in the library on a beautiful Saturday,” she said. 

 The teams of young mechanics had worked together on their creations for 12 weeks, and competed throughout their winter break, according to Bodenheimer. 

After more than five hours of competition, engineers from Sheepshead Bay’s Kings Bay branch took home the gold, and will go on to represent Brooklyn in a citywide tournament with NYC First, a non-profit designed to promote STEM education in the city’s youth.

Meet your champions: the Kings Bay team!Courtesy Brooklyn Public Library