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Clarkstown Kids Win Trophies in Robotics Competition

The Lightswitches, a team of seventh- and fourth-graders, work out of a basement.

The Lightswitches, a FLL robotics team from New City, qualified for the Feb. 22 regional competition.
The Lightswitches, a FLL robotics team from New City, qualified for the Feb. 22 regional competition.
A group of rookie Clarkstown kids is burning it up in the First Lego League robotics competition.

 "My son has always wanted to participate in the FLL Robotics competition," said Stephanie Ripps of New City. "This year, he found some like-minded friends, and set up shop in one of their basements."

The team, called the Lightswitches, was built from scratch, with parents as coaches, and its members include four seventh-graders from Felix Festa and three Woodglen fourth-graders.  The members are Alex Kurland, Tyler Derderian, Mark Albrecht, Ethan Ripps, Ryan Derderian, Jason Albrecht and Elias Price. Coaches are Julie and Doug Albrecht and Rachel Kurland.

Here's what they were up to. According to its website, FFL requires programming an autonomous robot (using the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robot set) to score points on a thematic playing surface, creating an innovative solution to a problem as part of their project, all while being guided by the FLL Core Values.

Since they were a rookie team, with only one veteran, the parents expected nothing more than a good time and a great learning experience, Ripp said. 

But at the qualifying round of competition in Sleepy Hollow, they picked up the first place trophy for "Core Values," placed second overall and qualified for the regional competition, which will be held Feb. 22 at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie. 

"We could not be prouder of our boys, as it is a true "underdog" story,"
Ripps said. "It is a true achievement."

Editor's Note: This is an update: one of the team members' names was omitted from the original story. 

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