By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — When he’s not in class or doing homework, high schooler Justin Page spends his time building robots that can dunk Wiffle balls into baskets.
Page, 17, is a senior at Shenendehowa High School and one of three co-captains of the Team 20 Robotics team. As a co-captain, he works with a 110-person group for six weeks on the construction of a robot built to compete in the nationwide FIRST Robotics Competition.
The team only recently finished the robot. By this year’s competition rules, it had to be ready for a basketball-type game in which robot teams of three will face off. At the upcoming competition in March, Page and his team will head to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to compete in the regional competition with over 30 other teams from the area. Being among the first teams to register for the competition, Page’s team will then travel to St. Louis for the championships.
“The whole mission of this team is to get people involved, and to get people excited for science,” Page said.
Page didn’t need convincing to become involved with science. What began as modifying Nerf guns and building treehouses in his childhood has given way to a passion for mechanical engineering, a career which Page would like to pursue in the near future. Future goals in mind, he had to cut back on a few extracurriculars, such as travel soccer and basketball, to focus completely on the robotics club this year. The Shen robotics club has been competing for over two decades, Page said, and he originally joined at the advice of friends. The club has around 40 mentors, said Page, who work in the local engineering field.
“This team was just perfect for me. I got to actually learn stuff about engineering,” Page said, noting that it was helpful to be around people who had the same goals and interests as he did.
Over the years, as he moved around to different sectors of the club, he became well versed enough in everything to become a captain. Many people, he said, stick to only one part of the club for four years.
“If you think about how anything works, you need someone to make it, you need someone to design it, you need someone to prototype it and someone to program, so there are a whole bunch of sectors for the team, and most people just sit down and sit in one section of the team for their four years,” Page said. “I went all over the place and learned a little bit of everything. I really was the jack of all trades, master of none.”
Along with the robotics club, Page is also in multiple honor societies, and was previously in student government. He started tech club this year, and while he enjoys reading, he spends 99 percent of his time not at home. He doesn’t become stressed from all of his activities because according to him, they’re the things that he enjoys.
“I enjoy it. Robotics is what calms me down,” he said. “If I had free time, I’d be doing that stuff.”
Page hopes to study mechanical engineering in college, with a possible minor in business, but he isn’t yet sure where he will be attending school. He draws inspiration from his grandfather, who was also an engineer, and has been active with the robotics team as well. Page said he and his grandfather share the same passion for figuring out how things work. He would like to be a mentor for the club in the future, and wants the club to continue to grow, but isn’t sure when he’ll have the time. In any case, he said, students who want to get involved and perhaps step into a leadership position can accomplish that by simply being present.
“Just learn something,” he said. “Be around leaders, or just be there.”