Public Info

Union County Vo-Tech Schools Enter “Parallel Universe” in Global Robotics Challenge

Union County, NJ – Thirty high school students from Union County’s award winning Vo-Tech Schools are up against a ticking clock in a global competition to build two fully functional, specially designed robots from scratch. The robots must be built within six weeks and they must be able to perform specific tasks. They will be put to the test at the upcoming FIRST Robotics Challenge on March 12 in New York City.

Named “Parallel Universe,” the Vo-Tech team is number 1257 in a field of more than 2,000 worldwide.

“The field of robotics is emerging as an important factor in sustainable technology and other growth sectors of the economy,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Deborah P. Scanlon. “The Freeholder Board is proud of Vo-Tech’s world class educational experience, and we are proud to support its mission of preparing young people for rewarding careers in a competitive global market.”

“In addition to honing their skills in robotics, the members of Parallel Universe are gaining valuable experience in skills that are essential for high level professional careers: teamwork, working calmly under pressure, and working with mentors and advisors,” said Vo-Tech Schools Superintendent Thomas J. Bistocchi.

FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” It is a not-for-profit public charity organization founded in 1989, with the goal of inspiring young people to pursue an interest in science and technology.

The FIRST Robotics Challenge, also known as the “varsity sport of the mind,” involves rigorous requirements for raising funds and establishing a team “brand” as well as building specialized robots within a strict deadline. In this year’s challenge, the teams must design a primary robot with an articulated arm that can lift tubes and place them on a horizontal pole. The robot must also be able to deploy a minibot that can race up a vertical pole.
Parallel Universe is meeting every day after school in order to complete its robots in time for the competition, and fundraising is ongoing. Those wishing to make a contribution can contact Lloyd Harris, Vo-Tech faculty advisor,
For more information about Union County Vo-Tech Schools, visit

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Photo Caption: Two members of the Union County Vo-Tech Schools “Parallel Universe” robotics team, Ariel Weingarten (r) and Joseph Obiajulu (l), are pictured at the FIRST Robotics Competition last year in Trenton. The team of 30 students is working on two robots to compete in this year’s event on March 12.