Lauretti honors Predators' state success

Shelton’s state champion robotics team has received more accolades, this time from Mayor Mark Lauretti who gave the students certificates of recognition and a promise of a donation to help offset travel costs.

Lauretti greeted the Predators, their adviser Laurie Vogl, coach Svapan Makadia and their parents Thursday, Jan. 30, in his office and offered his congratulations on yet another world championship appearance this April in Detroit.

“You have made the city of Shelton very proud,” said Lauretti, who donated $5,000 to help cover the team’s travel expenses last year.

This year, Lauretti said he will speak with Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish about upping the ante and possibly covering the students’ costs for registration and travel.

“I am happy to reward success,” the mayor told the students. “This is a big deal … they are state champions competing for a world championship. This is definitely money well spent. These students deserve to be recognized for their incredible achievement."

A GoFundMe page has been established for the Predators, which earned the World Championship invitation by winning the state FLL title in December. The GoFundMe page states that a “trip like this is very costly for our program and any financial support that you can provide would go a long way toward making this experience a positive one for these kids.”

Overall, the trip will cost between $15,000 and $20,000. As of Thursday, Jan. 30, the team has raised $600 of the $5,000 goal listed on the GoFundMe page.

The Predators, made up of seventh graders Finn Riddle and Shreya Yadav, sixth graders Jackson Guerra, Danny Hilser, Aarav Makadia, Krishiv Patel and Matthew Quevedo, and fifth grader Evan Pilkinton, not only won the state title but also took home the event’s Robot Performance Award for the highest score.

“There are 204 teams in Connecticut who compete in nine different venues to get down to 48 teams to compete in states,” said Vogl, the head FLL adviser. “One advances to worlds, and that one team is our Predators.”

Shelton robotics has been participating in the First Lego League robotics competition for 16 years. Vogl said the competition is designed for students in grades five to eight to give them an after-school opportunity to explore their interests in STEM education.

“We participate annually in the international FLL competition and service about 40 students per year associated with five teams. Our main objective is to partner interested students with volunteer mentors, teachers and parents to work collaboratively on projects involving robotics and research project presentations,” states the GoFundMe page.

This year’s theme is “City Shaper,” and students have been researching ways to solve real-world problems associated with public spaces and buildings within their community. More information on this challenge can be found on the FLL website.

The page states that the “Predators’ project tackled the problem of temperature issues in older buildings by building a cost and energy efficient blind to heat and cool down buildings. They are very excited and are continuing to prepare on a regular basis for this prestigious competition.”