In April of 2008 our Coach James Hofmann was offered 12 Lego NXT kits through a grant from No Child Left Behind. This started us on the road to becoming an FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) team.
That summer former Halsted Middle School students Lincoln Noggle (10th grade) and Kevin Kelly (9th grade) offered to help Hofmann run a two week summer camp for robotics, putting everything in motion.
In March of 2009, Noggle and Hofmann visited the Jacob Javits Center to scout the FRC Regional event. Lunacy was the name of the game and it seemed like lunacy that the two would take on such an immense project, but neither let the possibilities overwhelm them. They began to collect the resources necessary to start the program and their passion collected people too.
In November 2009, Hofmann was asked to meet with Newton High School Principal James Tasker, Newton Board of Education member Percy Mistry, and Col. Petersen and Sharam Dabiri from Picatinny Arsenal to discuss the formal creation of Newton’s FRC team. At the time, Hofmann was told, “Jim, just so you know, I have been told by others who do this, this can be a life changing activity.” Robotics has indeed changed Hofmann’s life and that of many students here at Newton High School in New Jersey.
The team earned its way to the International Championship in Atlanta in 2010 after winning the All Star Rookie Award at the NYC Regional. The experience was indeed life changing for its members.
In 2011 further accolades arrived in the form of the #1 Pit Safety Recognition at the NYC Regional. For some, the best moment of the competition was when they met Dean Kamen and had him autograph their lab coats.
That year at an off season competition, Monty Madness, hosted by Montgomery High School in Skillman, New Jersey, Aperture was part of the Winning Alliance and Hofmann took home the Woodie Flowers Jr. Mentor Award. Team members were thrilled that they were able to demonstrate growth and achieve success that season.
These early tastes of success helped our team grow exponentially, giving us a strong talent base among members and mentors. Sustainability was a given with excitement growing every day when students and the community saw what our robotics program had to offer.
With a newly attained varsity status in the spring of 2011, internships from sponsoring organizations, exciting programs such as the NASA Downlink ISS-Exposition 30 in February 2012, and a coveted special invitation to the International Competition in St. Louis, the team had never been more energized and ready to spread the message of FIRST.
At the district events, Aperture’s win of the Innovation In Control Award at Rutgers University and the Engineering Inspiration Award in Mt. Olive brought the team local recognition, inspiration, and opportunity to compete at the Regional event in Philadelphia. Working hard to hone their skills and perfect their robot, Aperture demonstrated their increased knowledge base and took home the coveted Engineering Inspiration Award earning a full ticket to St. Louis and making Hofmann’s dream come true. Meeting Bart Kamen during the interview for the Engineering Inspiration Award was the highlight for our EI team who fell in love with his sense of humor and passion.
Attending the International Championship twice in their three years of existence had our team and community completely excited. For our new members it was the opportunity to take their skills one step further, for our veteran members it was the chance to initiate a whole new level of understanding as to what FIRST had to offer and develop depth within the team. Sharing our good fortune, we invited Roxbury’s rookie FRC Team 4361 along for the experience.
Meeting so many great people and teams at the International Competition, coming close to attaining the Innovation In Control Award, and being surrounded by the FIRST experience, was amazing. Leaving St. Louis was hard but we were even more determined to make 2013 a “St. Louis” kind of year.
Reaching out to even more community members through service and educational outreach, expanding our fundraising and media circulation, and becoming more bonded with each other, Aperture is poised to show how far our young team has come and its excitement at having developed a well rounded, unified team that enjoys each others company. As one parent said, “My son can’t wait to get here!”