Flying First Class on the Cartesian Plane: 3D Modeling and Robotics with Ms. Jenkins

Kennedy Catholic’s course in 3D Modeling is a little over two years old, and no one is more excited about sitting at that nexus of Art and Science than its teacher, Ms. Antonia Jenkins.

“Yes, it’s fantastic! My background is in Art, but what I am teaching is the foundation of a lot of other things,” she enthused. “You can take what you’ve learned here and apply it to architecture, to engineering, to design. It’s the basics that you need to help grow.”

Currently, 3D Modeling students use Maya, the same industry-standard software used by Hollywood animators. That’s right in Ms. Jenkins’ wheelhouse, having more than a few short films and commercials under her belt. She studied Computer Animation at The School of Visual Arts.

Ms. Antonia Jenkins teaches Robotics, Computer Programming and Computer Modeling at Kennedy Catholic High School

Ms. Antonia Jenkins teaches Robotics, Computer Programming and Computer Modeling at Kennedy Catholic High School

“With 3D Modeling, students start out making simple things, working with the space, getting familiar with the interface, then going on to actually making things, making objects.”

This marriage of aesthete with concrete is emblematic of other courses offered to juniors and seniors at Kennedy, as well. It’s a big component of the Robotics curriculum, taught, again, by Ms. Jenkins.

“I try to blend a lot of the creativity and the science together by having students come up with creative ideas, like telling a story. One of the projects we do at the end of the year is to have the robot tell a story, and then have the robot act it out. So we have the creative side of writing a story and the more scientific side of programming the robot to move, and to change its voice, and to narrate the story, and to make it come to life.”

Students use an application called Choreographe to program the robot. The application breaks the robot-controlling program down into a series of boxes that each manage a different part of the robot’s programming. The students also need to write their own custom code to make the robot perform various tasks.

“Robotics class starts out with basic things,” she explains, ”like making the robot talk. Then we proceed onto making it move and working with its different sensors and do more complicated things.”

The Robot

The Robot

On the horizon? Yanking some of those wireframes and software models out of cyberspace with Kennedy Catholic’s new 3D printer.

“We’ve got some other software that we are working with, including 123D Design and Meshmixer, and we’re going to be learning how to make things in 3D space, how the printer works, and how you what you create digitally translates into reality.”

Ms. Jenkins agrees that making robots tell stories and sculpting objects from aether hits the sweet spot for many Kennedy students who are Math and Science-oriented.

“There is a lot of Geometry that goes into 3D Modeling. So you need to know about the Cartesian plane, basic geometric principles, and the different components of an object. You get to work with that and through that you get to create some amazing things.”

But if it’s a little bit Art, and a little bit Science, what’s the benchmark for success? How does a teacher know that she has the pistons firing on both the left and right sides of a student’s brain?

“When they keep asking me ‘what to do?’ and ‘what to do next?’” Ms. Jenkins explained. “I had a first year student who was really into it, she was always on top of her work, and she always wanted to know, ‘what’s the next step?’”

…and the next step for that student was…?

“I have heard back from her and she is studying to be an architect! That’s fantastic because architects work with a program called Auto CAD, another 3D software program. So I have given her a nice foundation to continue working in 3D.”

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Bionic Gaels win Inspire Award

On February 8 at Pace University in Pleasantville, the Bionic Gaels competed at the Empire New York Regional Championship. They were undefeated during qualifiers, lost in the semi-finals, and won the Inspire Award, which is the top tournament award. This capped off a season which included two other Inspire Award finishes in Yonkers and Brooklyn, as well as an Inspire Award runner-up finish in New Jersey. Additional awards this season include Think (NJ), and finalists for Think (Empire NY), Control (NJ, Empire NY) and Rockwell Collins Innovate (NJ).

Winning the Inspire Award resulted in the Bionic Gaels being the top team to earn advancement from the Empire NY region to the FIRST Tech Challenge East Super-Regional Championship, where they will compete against 72 teams advancing from 12 regions from Maine to Virgina. This is the second season in a row for the Bionic Gaels to advance to national-level competition.In addition to the Empire NY championship, the Bionics Gaels also qualified to compete in the New York City / Long Island and New Jersey championships. Having already earned advancement to the Super-Regional at the Empire NY Championship, they decided to withdraw from the additional championship tournaments in order to give other teams an opportunity to advance, spend more time improving their robot (PT-109), complete more outreach events, and volunteer at the NJ championship.The FTC East Super-Regional Championship will be held at the University of Scranton from March 19 to March 21. Each of the four US Super-Regional Championships will advance 20 teams to the 128-team World Championship in St. Louis in April, joined by advancing international teams.

Bionic Gaels links:

Website: https://bionicgaels.wordpress.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BionicGaels
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bionic-Gaels/149751451833346

FIRST Tech Challenge links:

US FIRST Tech Challenge: http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc
Empire NY Region: http://seidenberg.pace.edu/first
FTC East Super-Regional Championship: http://www.ftceast.org
FTC East Super-Regional field of teams: http://www.ftceast.org/teams/2014-2015-teams

Bionic Gaels


Kennedy Robotics Team Xeno Gaels Win Big

On Saturday Feb 21, 2015 The Kennedy Robotics Team 9541 Xeno Gaels Participated in the NYC/LI FTC Dalton Qualifier down on 87th Street in Manhattan to attempt to earn a spot in the NYC/LI Championship Tournament. The Xeno Gaels accomplished their goal while racking up some other awards.

Here are their highlights for the day:

  • NYC/LI FTC Dalton Qualifier – Manhattan
  • – The Dalton School; Athletic Facility
  • 3rd Seed
  • 1st Place Alliance Team Finalist
  • Rockwell Collins Innovative Award
  • Finalist PTC Design Award
  • Finalist Think Award
  • Advancement to NYC/LI FTC Championship Tournament @ NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering

Xeno Gaels shine again in second competition

The Xeno Gaels, who were competing in just their second robotics tournament, had another impressive performance out in Hewlett, Long Island on Sunday, Jan. 18 in a FIRST Tech Challenge Long Island Qualifier.

Xeno Gaels marched all the way to the finals yet again, before falling in the championship.



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Kennedy hosts Bionic Brouhaha II: The Second One

Kennedy Catholic hosted a Robotics Event entitled Bionic Brouhaha II: The Second One, which was a Mid Hudson Qualifying Tournament for the Empire NY Region, on Saturday, Jan. 10.

Somers Town Supervisor Rick Morrissey attended the event and proclaimed Jan. 10 to be Technology Day in the Town of Somers to commend the Bionic Gaels, the Xeno Gaels and the rest of the teams present for their hard work in FIRST Tech Challenge.

The opening ceremony also included comments from Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino’s Chief of Staff George Oros and Kennedy Catholic President and Principal Father Mark Vaillancourt.

The Kennedy team of the 9541 Xeno Gaels, which were competing in their first robotics tournament, reached the finals and won their first four matches. They also came in third place for the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award. For hosting the event, the 5602 Bionic Gaels advanced to the Championship event on Feb. 8 at Pace University.

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Kennedy to host Bionic Brouhaha II: The Second One on Jan. 10

When Dean Kamen founded FIRST, or For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, he had a goal of developing ways to inspire students in engineering and technology fields.

“Kids are idolizing celebrities and sports stars and so few of them can go pro in their field, so we want to show them where else they can go pro,” Kennedy Catholic senior Laurel Higham said of Kamen’s message.

The Bionic Gaels were born.

Four years ago, Higham and her father Joseph formed the Bionic Gaels robotics club. The team has experienced a myriad of successes over the years and after hosting a robotics qualifying event last year, they will be doing so again this year when Bionic Brouhaha II: The Second One comes to Kennedy Catholic on Saturday, Jan. 10.

Twenty-four teams, more than 200 students and some 100 parents and volunteers will descend on Kennedy Catholic in Somers for the last of five qualifying tournaments in the Hudson Valley.

“Everyone is very enthusiastic about being a big community,” said Laurel, a Kennedy senior, who is the captain of the Bionic Gaels. “You don’t want to create any hard feelings between teams.”

Being the 5602 Bionic Gaels are hosting the event, they will not be competing. But Kennedy Catholic has another team, the 9541 Xeno Gaels, which consists of four students and was formed in October. This will be their first event as a team.

Awards are not just given out for the performance of a team’s robot. Teams are judged on their team spirit, fundraising, community service and how well you designed your robot.

“It’s not just about the robot,” Laurel said. “There’s a greater message to it.”

Saturday’s Empire NY FTC Mid-Hudson Qualifying Tournament will showcase robots from teams across the Hudson Valley, Long Island, upstate New York, Buffalo, New Jersey and Connecticut. Six squads will advance to the Championship event at Pace University on Sunday, Feb. 8.

“Nationally and regionally, our robotics program has been experiencing explosive growth,” said Joseph Higham. “We’re expecting 200-250 of Westchester’s brightest students along with an additional 100-150 parents, coaches, mentors and volunteers.”

Laurel estimates that the team practices 8-12 hours per week. In their most recent competition, the Bionic Gaels placed 13th of 36 teams and won the Think award at the Robo-CATastrophe Core Qualifier in Columbia, New Jersey on Nov. 16. They will compete at the New Jersey State Championships in March and it is the first time they’ve advanced past the qualifying round in the New Jersey tournament.

Teams will begin making preliminary adjustments at 9 a.m., with opening ceremonies to follow around 10:30 a.m.

The 5602 Bionic Gaels consist of senior captain Laurel Higham, senior Maggie Caridi, junior Austin Cohen, senior Susanna Cohen, senior Sarah Dollard, junior Silvana Acierno, junior Matt Beisswenger, junior Gabby Formoso, senior Jordan Hopkins, junior Max Jarcho, junior Skylar Rom and sophomore Danny Caridi.

The 9541 Xeno Gaels consist of freshman Rachel Beisswenger, junior Al Cantarella, freshman Sean Dollard and sophomore Chris Hanrahan.

For more information on the event, click here.



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Bionic Gaels are Hudson Valley Championship Finalists


Congratulations to our Bionic Gaels robotics team on being a finalist this past weekend at the Hudson Valley FTC Championship. The Gaels were one match away from winning it all, and took home the Finalist Alliance Trophy and Medals for its efforts. The Connect Award finalist proved its design capable of consistent scoring, effective defense, and a high degree of reliability.

Team moderator Joe Higham P’15 said the Gaels did a “great job in the pits diagnosing and fixing our motor cable short. Without that fix, we wouldn’t have been able to rack up three triple-digit qualifying match scores.”

The Bionic Gaels now has its sights on another strong showing at the Connecticut State Championship next month.

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Kennedy Catholic goes ‘Bionic’

Kennedy goes ‘Bionic’

New robotics club the precursor to nanotechnology program

As winter sets in, most students—in addition to homework, of course—spend their weekends at the gym for offseason workouts, perhaps on the hardwood perfecting a jump shot, or on the stage running lines and blocking for the spring musical.  A new Kennedy team, however, will be doing something a bit different—building robots.

Introducing the Bionic Gaels, Kennedy’s FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team ever!  The mission of FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is to “inspire young people to be science and technology leaders”.  Mentor Joseph Higham, along with science teachers Laura Cascioli and George Petryczka, has begun that inspiration here at Kennedy.

In preparation for its first competition, the Bionic Gaels have assembled and deconstructed two practice robots, Ranger and Mantis, and begun learning the basics about ROBOTC programming language.  Earlier this month, the Gaels spent a Saturday turning a portion of the cafeteria into a 12-by-12-foot practice field to get ready for the competition games.

The Rev. Mark Vaillancourt, president/principal of Kennedy, hopes the robotics club will spawn renewed interest in the sciences as he looks to incorporate a nanotechnology program into the school’s curriculum.

Follow the Bionic Gaels online at http://bionicgaels.wordpress.com