In a stunning feat of skill and ingenuity, the Boys Town Jerusalem (BTJ) High School Robotics Team scored Second Place in the all-star Israel FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) 2021 competition.

BTJ students competed against over 20 top Israeli teams in the national contest to design, construct, and program the robot to spar to victory against its mechanical opponents. Yet, for the winning 11-member BTJ team, the trophy was a tribute to far more than their robotic prowess.

“Covid hampered every move we made to prepare for the contest,” lamented 10th grade team member Shay Neuhaus. “With school closed for most of the year, our team couldn’t even meet. All of our planning, programing and building of the robot was done via telephone messages, Zoom sessions, and outdoor ‘distanced’ get-togethers in parks. This was the real challenge.”

When the campus finally reopened recently, the team members raced into intense after-school efforts to complete their mission, often working late into the night. “The result was that our robot was one of the best in the nation, capable of carrying out sophisticated tasks at top speed,” exclaimed Shay, whose role as a mastermind programmer meshed with his teammates’ efforts in designing and building the robot.

The BTJ team members cited the confidence and friendship that grew throughout the process. “The Robotics team experience helped make us aware of each other’s work and needs.”

For the majority of the BTJ champion team, the FTC contest was the culmination of their well-loved extracurricular Robotics activities an entries in the FLL (FIRST Lego League) competitions in junior high. In proud tradition, the older students take an active role in helping younger team members to excel. Regardless of age, Robotics is where the heart is. In this year’s FTC contest, two longtime BTJ Robotics team members now serving in top IDF units got special leave to personally come and cheer the newest generation to victory.

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