Rebel Robotics

"Changing the culture, one nut and bolt at a time"

What We've Been Up To: 2020-2021 Update

September 18th, 2020 (Updated February 15th, 2021)
COVID-19: The Rebels Do Their Part

Operation: Get Well
Due to the COVID crisis, we partnered with Operation: Get Well to send get-well cards to hospitalized COVID patients in the New York metropolitan area to provide comfort and our well wishes. A team of highly-motivated students put together this initiative, with the goal of sending 2638 cards collectively as a team. Ultimately, we surpassed this goal by the end of the summer. In addition, one of our ingenious team members ended up creating a bot script which sent thousands of cards at once -- technology in the pursuit of good works! Gift cards and recognition was given at milestone submissions.


Recognizing the extraordinary need for PPE supplies during the worst of the COVID crisis, a committee of team members worked all summer to solicit and donate $550 in PPE for local hospitals. Contributors were highlighted on our Facebook page and gift cards were given to those who made significant donations.


3D Printing of Face Shields
Responding to the lack of PPE equipment during the difficult days of the pandemic this summer, two members from our team 3D printed, assembled, and donated over forty face shields to first-responders at a local police station. At present, they are expanding their PPE initiative by training team members to use the school’s 3D printer to make and donate face shields to essential workers.


Food Drive
In an effort to respond to food neediness in the local community caused by the pandemic, Team 2638 spearheaded a food drive to benefit a local church’s (St. Aloysius) food pantry. Rebel Robotics worked in collaboration with FLL and FTC robotics teams in our district, 2 high school clubs, and Baker Elementary School to collect canned goods and non-perishable food items for the over 100 families that rely on the pantry to meet their sustenance needs. As part of the drive, 322 cereal boxes were collected for the pantry.


Rotary Food Drive
Over the past year Rebel Robotics had the opportunity to collaborate with local rotary clubs to package food donations for families in need. Over 10,000 boxes were packaged and delivered. Rebel Robotics continues its tradition of partnering with local organizations to give back to our community.

Outreach at Home and Abroad

Book Drive
The team initiated a one-week book drive to collect and donate books to students and adults with limited access to literacy materials. During that one-week period, team members donated 855 books as part of the “Books n’ Bots” literacy effort. The team partnered with Book Fairies, a Long Island based non-profit, to collect and distribute the books.

Inspired by the work of the robotics team, the Great Neck Teachers Association (GNTA) launched a summer book drive to provide reading material to in-district students with limited access to reading materials. Once those students received packages of books and fun summer activities, the thousands of excess donated books were packaged. Rebel Robotics team mentors then coordinated the storage and pickup of the reading material so they could go to the non-profit, Book Fairies.


Ugly Sweater Contest and Gift Cards for Veterans
Rebel Robotics is not only committed to supporting team spirit, but school spirit as well. During the holiday season, Rebel Robotics sponsored an Ugly Sweater Contest where students could send in pictures of their homemade and store-bought sweaters for a chance to win prizes. Students were also encouraged to drop off gift cards for donation to local veterans during this event. $1,175 in gift cards were collected and donated to the veterans in a collaborative effort with the Town of North Hempstead.


International Computer Science Instruction
A member of our team, working in collaboration with another student at the high school, established a Java programming curriculum and executed a three-week programming fundamentals course for seven high school girls in Tajikistan. With limited resources and the unavailability of instruction, these young women were uniquely poised to receive the instruction and role-modeling opportunities afforded by this program. This outreach effort is representative of Rebel Robotics’ commitment to providing STEM opportunities for those who lack adequate technical education -- using technology to help young women to gain exposure and skills in computer programming.

Boy Scouts Collaborate with the Rebels
In an ongoing relationship with a local Boy Scouts troop, Rebel Robotics provided technical assistance as the scouts prepared their cars for the Pinewood Derby. Team members and mentors utilized the woodshop to prepare the wooden forms used in the derby and were on hand to help as the scouts designed and engineered their cars. This collaboration is representative of the team’s ongoing goal to work with local organizations and community groups.

Connected During COVID-19

Country Roads Video
A team tradition of ours for the past 12 years has been singing “Country Roads” by John Denver on our bus rides to competitions. Since 2020 meant changes to many of Rebel Robotics’ time-honored traditions due to the cancellation of in-person competitions, we decided to take our “Country Roads” tradition virtual; various team members, each singing a line of the song, contributed to a morale boosting and revamped version of our robotics tradition. You can watch it here!


Virtual Appreciation Reception Awards
The team’s annual Appreciation Reception for the 2020 season was held virtually. Students, parents, sponsors, mentors and school administration numbering 78 attended a Zoom reception. Awards and certificates of appreciation and recognition were given to peer mentors, sponsors and a member of district’s administration. To see the awards that were given out, head over to our Appreciation Reception Awards page.


Robotics Social
At the virtual robotics social, over 70 current members, mentors, parents, and alumni joined together on Zoom for a fun night. Numerous breakout rooms were opened where students hosted various online games, including Among Us and, while also leaving the main room open for alumni to catch up with current members. While this social may not have been like previous in-person socials, the team had an amazing time connecting with people who they hadn't seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

Reconnecting with our Rebel Alumni

Robotics Alumni Zoom
What better way to chat with team alumni and learn about their experiences in college than to host a Zoom session to do just that? Thanks to alumnus Saad Satter, (2019), many team members had a great time and learned a lot about engineering at the college level. The meeting ended up lasting a few hours as alumni shared stories of their experiences on the team.

Rebel Reboot Alumni Outreach Program
In an effort to gather long-term data on our alumni and to re-engage them in the FIRST community, 2638 conducted a pilot study for a new program, “Rebel Reboot.” Information was collected on their experiences on the team, accomplishments since high school graduation (education and work history), and their interest in being a FIRST mentor, sponsor, or volunteer. Results from the study show promise: 92.3% would consider volunteering for FIRST and 76.9% were interested in mentoring the team. Many respondents volunteered to participate in career education activities with current team members: talks, taped interviews and informational sessions.

Alumni also had other relevant feedback concerning their time on the team and their participation in FIRST:

--“(Participation on the team) . . . introduced me to things I never thought I would take (an) interest in: graphic design and animation. Other projects . . . taught me organization, management, and systematic thinking.”

--“Working together you are stronger than working alone”.

--“Honestly, it was kind of a light in my life in a time I wasn't doing too well. It made me passionate about something, and that was really something I had been missing in my life prior.”

--“I became more comfortable in my skin, confident, and was able to learn how to network.”

--“Being a part of Team 2638 made me believe that I, too, could pursue a career in this field! Getting to participate in women in STEM events courtesy of Rebel Robotics was a mind-opening experience that helped me figure out a direction that I wanted to go in during college.”

--“(My time on 2638) made me realize that everything I do is part of STEM. STEM is not just something you learn in school that has no real-world application.”

--“(Team membership) solidified my passion to go into STEM, since I had initially already had some before going into the robotics program.”

--“(Being a part of 2638) is probably the single biggest reason I am an engineer. I mean, it's very different in practice being an engineer, but it (robotics) got me excited and I think that's the most important thing.”

--“(Team 2638) helped me cement my interests and motivated me to continue pursuing a STEM bachelor’s degree and now a master’s degree.”

Sustaining and Growing 2638

Scouting App
During the 2019/2020 season, six team members collaborated to create a fully native scouting app for iOS and Android. The initial prototype completed, the app team worked throughout the summer to optimize the app, making it look and function in an efficient, effective manner. The goal is to test out the app and the team hopes to share it with other teams in the FIRST community. The success of this team prompted the creation of a new team committee - the Apps Committee.


CAD Course
For the second summer in a row, Rebel Robotics hosted their signature CAD course to 17 students who signed up. Led by six experienced members of the team, interested students were provided with video lessons matched with corresponding practice assignments. Subsequent feedback and suggestions for improvement were provided to those who participated. This program helps Rebel Robotics to sustain the quality and quantity of team members who can assist with CADing functions during the year.


Robotics Shop Redesign
The 2020/21 season has seen the re-design of the robotics shop to maximize the efficiency of the current space; incorporate a new drill, other machining tools and storage facilities; install a new computer area with large-scale viewing wall; and reconfigure the shop to allow for a newly-carpeted, permanent practice space for driving the robot. The permanent practice space will be utilized to allow for year-round training and practice for those interested in learning how to drive and navigate the robot. This accessible practice space allows younger members of the team the opportunity to become familiar with competition skills and develop a better understanding of handling the robot in a game. The new viewing wall will be used for training and video conferencing.

Our Gender Equity Initiative Continues

Establishment of SHE - SHE Has Empowerment
The team launched a women in STEM group, named SHE (She Has Empowerment), to further the goals of the gender equity initiative identified by the team in 2019/20. Twenty female team members identified four working subcommittees: Branding and Marketing; Programming; Career Awareness and Education; and Outreach. Numerous activities and programs are being considered within the school, the community and the team -- such as taping career workshops/interviews with women currently working in STEM fields; career development (resume-writing, interviewing, internships) workshops; collaborative programs with girls in the middle and elementary schools and creating informal programs to provide safe social spaces for women students to meet and support one another.

To date, the group has hosted a resume writing workshop, created a flyer/activity sheet for distribution to middle school young women, developed a school-wide slide show highlighting the achievements of females in STEM to run during Women’s History Month, and established a bulletin board display in the Technology wing of the high school highlighting female STEM achievers and SHE programming.

Another effort being made by one of our female team members is the establishment of a high school chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). This team member is currently in negotiation with the local SWE chapter.

Mentor Achievements

Congratulations to our NYS Firefighter Teacher of the Year
Team 2638’s lead mentor, John Motchkavitz, was named the 2020 Teacher of the Year by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY). This award recognizes a teacher across the state who has distinguished themselves in fire prevention and safety. Safety has been the cornerstone of John Motchkavitz’s leadership on Rebel Robotics since the team’s inception as evidenced by the team’s consistent recognition for safety excellence within the FIRST community (3 international safety awards) and the team’s numerous outreach efforts to provide safety education instruction within the district and the Gold Coast Alliance.


Introducing our New District-Wide Coordinator for Robotics
As a result of the popularity and success of the Rebel Robotics’ program and the interest generated in robotics and STEM, the Great Neck School District saw the need to create a permanent administrative position for a district-wide robotics coordinator. This individual’s job is to provide a cohesive and developmental approach to infusing robotics into the STEM curriculum in the district. Rebel Robotics’ lead mentor, John Motchkavitz, was identified to provide this leadership to the Jr. FLL, FLL, FTC and FRC teams that operate in the Great Neck District.

…And one more thing...