Pascack Pi-oneers end season with 7 awards


Matt Austin

This is the first year that Pascack Valley junior Hannah Epstein is the Pascack Pi-oneer's Valley CEO. The team won a total of seven awards this season and participated in five competitions.

The Pascack Pi-oneers, the Pascack Valley Regional High School District’s robotics team, recently returned from their five day trip to the FIRST Championship in Detroit, Michigan, marking the conclusion of the team’s 15th season competing. This season, the team won a total of seven awards, including one District Event Winner and one District Event Finalist award, and competed in five competitions.

“The theme of this year’s game was space, in honor of the 50-year anniversary of the moon landing,” said PV junior Hannah Epstein, the team’s Valley CEO. “Our robot had to complete different tasks involving space-themed objects, such as loading rockets.”

The season began in the first week of January when the robot game was announced to all teams. The Pi-oneers had only six weeks, known as “build season,” to build the robot. After those six weeks, the robot was tested on the competition field.

Waterbury, Connecticut

For their first event of the season, the Pi-oneers went out of their home district. As a team from New Jersey, the Pi-oneers typically compete in the FIRST Mid-Atlantic District, but Connecticut is part of the FIRST New England District.

The team was ranked second after the qualification matches. They became the alliance captains of Alliance 2, competing with two other teams from Connecticut.

“An alliance is made up of three teams that work together throughout the playoffs. The alliance captain chooses the other two teams in the alliance by analyzing data acquired from watching matches and seeing how other teams perform,” said PV sophomore Luke DePaolo, the leader of one of the team’s mechanical subdivisions. Together, the Pi-oneers’ alliance won the entire competition.

The Pi-oneers also won the Entrepreneurship Award and the Safety Award at the Waterbury event, both for the second year in a row. The Entrepreneurship Award “recognizes a team that has developed a comprehensive business plan in order to define, manage, and achieve the team’s ongoing objectives” and the Safety Award “celebrates the team that progresses beyond safety fundamentals by using innovative ways to eliminate or protect against hazards,” according to the FIRST website.

“For me, the highlight of the season was winning our first tournament in Waterbury,” DePaolo said. “Even though it was an out-of-district event, it felt very good to win because it was the first time since 2017 that we won a tournament.”

Bridgewater, New Jersey

From March 15 to March 17, the Pi-oneers competed at an event held at Bridgewater-Raritan High School located in Somerset County. After the twelve qualification matches, the team was in first place. As captains of Alliance 1, the Pi-oneers teamed up with two other teams from New Jersey.

One of the teams on the Pi-oneers’ alliance was unable to compete due to mechanical difficulties. In one match, the Pi-oneers and their one remaining alliance member faced off against an alliance of three robots and won. The team called in a backup robot and made it to finals but lost by just a single point.

“Although a few issues came up with the robot throughout the competition, we worked hard to fix them and we played very well,” DePaolo said.

Skillman, New Jersey

During the last weekend in March, the Pi-oneers competed at a FIRST Mid-Atlantic District event at Montgomery High School. The team placed sixth in the qualification matches and was picked to be on Alliance 2. They made it to the semifinals at this event and won the Entrepreneurship Award.

“Winning the Entrepreneurship Award at the Montgomery event was the highlight of the season for me,” said PV sophomore Madeleine Miller, one of the members of the team’s presentation team. “We put in a lot of hard work and effort to make a comprehensive 50-page business plan, and seeing its success felt very rewarding.”

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

The team competed in the FIRST Mid-Atlantic District Championship event at Lehigh University and made it to the quarterfinals. After the qualification matches, the team was ranked 15th out of the 60 teams competing and was picked to be on Alliance 4.

At this event, the Pi-oneers won the Safety Award. Epstein also won the FIRST Dean’s List Finalist Award, allowing her to compete for the Dean’s List Award at the world championship event for the second year in a row.

“Being a Dean’s List Finalist at the World Championship for the second time was an unforgettable experience,” Epstein said. “I am so honored to have been recognized among those other incredible students.”

Detroit, Michigan

The team went undefeated in the qualification matches and were ranked first out of the 68 teams in their division in Detroit.

Their first place ranking made them the Alliance 1 captain. The team allied with a team from New York, a team from Israel, and a backup team from Canada. In the playoffs, the team made it to the semifinals, but lost in a tiebreaker match.

The team took home the Innovation in Control Award, which “celebrates an innovative control system or application of control components,” according to the FIRST website. The team was also the runner-up for the Safety Award.

“I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what next year’s game will entail, as it is a collaboration game with Star Wars,” Epstein said. “I’m very excited to get a new group of students onto the team and to see our current students step up into more leadership positions.”