Paying It Forward at St. Joseph Regional High School

Baskayan Twins Assist St. Joe’s and St. Paul’s

In 2015, SJR enjoyed its most successful robotics season, qualifying for a national competition on the strength of its success (six competition awards) in local events. The Baskayan twins, Lucas and Eric, who are currently studying engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology, were the leaders of that 2015 team.

Two years later, they have returned to St. Joe’s to guide a young Green Knights Robotics team through its 2017 schedule. Their return was the result of a chance meeting with SJR President Barry Donnelly at the Marist Retreat House in New York.

“We were there to assist the Brothers on something that had nothing to do with Robotics,” said Lucas, “and we met Mr. Donnelly, who thought our past experience with the VEX program could be helpful to this year’s team. We met Mr. Myatt, the current moderator, and we basically became assistant coaches for the rest of the year.”

Their contribution was invaluable.

“They were able to help teach our freshmen and sophomores the basic of robot design, as well as the techniques for building different types of robots,” said Mr. Norm Myatt, moderator of the Robotics team. “They were also able to explain to students how the actual competitions were laid out, and how to avoid some of the more common mistakes.”

The result was a season in which the team garnered enough competition points to qualify for the New Jersey state VEX competition, where it finished 22 out of the 48 competing teams, not bad for a squad composed entirely of freshmen and sophomores.

“Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of our work this year was being able to see these guys, who knew very little in November, learn how to tackle the problems they would face in competition in a logical and rational way,” said Eric. “Our experience at Stevens was a big help in this regard, since we have been taught that the engineering process is a sort of step-by-step procedure that must be followed to solve more complex problems. In addition, our two years at Stevens gave us enough basic knowledge to steer team members away from some of the mechanical and electrical roadblocks that plagued us when we were building our first robots.”

Impressively, the Baskayans’ willingness to “give back” extends beyond St. Joe’s to their grammar school as well.

“We are still actively working with the Academy of St. Paul in Ramsey, where we worked with their eighth graders on Future City, a national competition that has students build the best city of tomorrow by overcoming all the engineering and scientific challenges that go along with such a project.”

Among the students they worked with was Quinn Burns, who made a presentation of St. Paul’s “future city” called “Navina Jivana” at the Archdiocesan STEM fair at the end of March. Quinn will be a member of the SJR Class of 2021 in September.

While both brothers feel the future is bright at SJR (especially with the introduction of a new Robotics elective next year), they agreed that moving the program forward would depend on more student involvement.

“More participants bring diverse ideas and skill sets,” they said. “An efficient design is just as important as the code that runs the robot. Having more teams (SJR had three teams with three different robots this year), would put SJR on the VEX robotics ‘map’ and help cement SJR’s position as a dependable competition team no matter what the challenges are.”

(left to right) Eric and Lucas Baskayan, SJR class of 2015, receive an honorarium for their work with the Robotics team from members Chris Flug ’20 and Sebastiano Riverso ’20.