Tompkins Weekly

Ithaca High School robotics team kicks off build season

Last Saturday was an event called “Kick-Off,” or the revealing of this year’s challenge, “Crescendo,” and the official start to Code Red Robotics’ 2-month build season. Photo provided

         For Ian Krywe, advisor for Code Red Robotics at Ithaca High School, one of the most rewarding parts of his job is watching students grow within the program.

         “It’s so cool to watch them transform in such a short amount of time, really in seven weeks,” he said. “I watch kids gain confidence. When they first start, they’re afraid to talk, or share, and by the end of it they are engaging and leading other students and showing them how to do things.”

By Jaime Cone Hughes

Ithaca High School’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics team Code Red Robotics has started its 24th season. On Jan. 6, 68 students and 12 mentors met in the IHS York Lecture Hall to watch the live reveal of this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition game, “Crescendo.”

“It was really exciting getting to see everyone’s reaction to the new challenge, and it’s cool to think that thousands of other teams around the world were watching it with us,” shared Helina Kim, a first-year member of the team.

This year’s game, titled Crescendo, consists of grabbing, placing, and shooting orange rings, or “notes” into two different goals at both ends of the field called the amp and speaker. As in all FIRST Robotics Competitions, each team is partnered with two other teams’ robots on either the red or blue alliance. The Code Red drive team must work with its alliance partners to win games and score ranking points. Every game starts with a 15-second autonomous period before the robots are driven and controlled by the students for the remaining 2 minutes and 15 seconds. During the last leg of the match, robots race to get to their team’s stage and lift themselves onto a chain to earn extra points. 

“We’re definitely going to have our work cut out for us this year. With all of the different components of the game, every subteam will have a lot on their plate,” said CAD (Computer Aided Design) head Everett Groat, “but I’m excited to see what designs we come up with. It looks like a very fun challenge.”

Fortunately, the team has about 12 mentors, adults from the community who come into the classroom and help out. Some of them have engineering skills, Krywe said, and some have other wisdom to share in the areas of meeting deadlines or solving problems.

Saturday, Jan. 6, was the official start of Code Red’s build season. For the next six weeks, students and mentors will be working together in the IHS technology rooms to design, build, program, and test their new robot. The team will be playing at two competitions this year, Finger Lakes Regional in Rochester (March 14-16) and Tech Valley Regional in Albany (March 21-23). In order to manage the vast amount of work that goes into creating a robot, students split themselves into different subteams, each focusing on its own crucial part of the building process. 

“After seeing so much enthusiasm from the whole team today, I can’t wait to see how the build season will unfold,” expressed Build Team Manager Jan Vanek-Raphaelidis. 

Every year Code Red invites other Ithaca-based STEAM organizations to participate in the Code Red Open House. This event brings in hundreds of kids and their families, free of charge, to experience hands-on STEAM-related games and activities. Groups such as the Sciencenter, the Cornell Society of Women Engineers, and other technology clubs at the middle and high school level set up booths, interactive demonstrations, and experiments for the attendees to take part in. The open house is one of numerous ways Code Red can engage and connect with the community, as well as help foster the younger generation’s love of STEAM. This year it will take place Feb. 3 from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Ithaca High School tech wings and cafeteria. The open house is a unique educational opportunity for all kids within and beyond the Ithaca community. 

The Code Red drive team must work with its alliance partners to win games and score ranking points. Photo provided

Krywe said he appreciates all the sponsors of the program. One, Vector Magnetics, has employed many Ithaca High School graduates who were part of Code Red, he said, adding that several of the group’s mentors are employees at the company as well.

Other sponsors include: BorgWarner Morse TEC, BAE Systems, Sciarabba Walker, Cornell Bowers College of Computing & Information Science, Cornell College of Engineering, Cornell Institute for Computational Sustainability, Duthie Orthodontics, Finger Lakes Consulting, PLLC, Incodema, the IHS Class of 1951, Tompkins Community Bank, ICSD, ICSD Board of Education, Ithaca High School, IPEI, and IthacaSTEM Advocates. Their support makes it possible for the team to operate and to foster a love of STEAM. (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math).

Code Red is led by: President Jennifer Zhao, Build Team Manager (Vice President) Jan Vanek-Raphaelidis, Treasurer Celene Sahoo, Administrator Shaine Wei, Public Relations Officer Carly Hare, and Community Outreach Coordinator Alex Elia.

Code Red is an associate member of the IthacaSTEM Advocates, an affiliate of the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI), a not-for-profit organization that believes the education of every student in the Ithaca City School District (ICSD) is enhanced through community connections and support.

More information about Code Red can be found at our website, or by emailing adviser Ian Krywe at For more information about FIRST robotics can be found at

Carly Hare, public relations officer for Code Red Robotics and an Ithaca High School junior, contributed much of the reporting in this article. 

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