At Hewlett High School, robotics thrives


The Hewlett High School robotics teams continue to add awards to their trophy case, and their coach is being recognized for their success.

Janine Torresson, who guides the school’s Robotics Club, finished third in the judging for the Compass Award at the Long Island First Tech Challenge Championships on March 12.

The award has special meaning for the student competitors. RoboBoogie, one of three teams in the Hewlett High club, nominated Torresson for the honor, which recognizes an adult coach/mentor who guides and supports a team. The students submitted a 60-second video a week before the competition at Bethpage High School, in which they made their case for Torresson.

“I know how much time she puts in,” David Rifkind, assistant chairman of the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools Endowment Fund, wrote in an email, “and it’s way above and beyond what most folks would do, and the recognition is more than well earned.” The endowment fund is composed of graduates, families and local merchants who raise money to support district programs.

The Robotics Club has 50 students who spend hours building robots to compete against other schools, and expanding and refining their operations and capabilities. Torresson also oversees the Bionica and Innovo teams.

“For her to place third speaks more of the import and guidance she puts into the team,” senior Addison Star said. “More than anything else.”

Star, a RoboBoogie team member, noted that this was the first time the club had ever submitted a nomination for the award.

“At these competitions, there are a lot of awards, such as best design or best connection to the community,” junior Alex Tourneux, another RoboBoogie member, explained.

“The Compass Award represents the coach, and I think it’s important because you can’t do anything without the coach. Ms. Torresson is the best coach we can ask for.”

Torresson, who has coached the club for eight years, cited the drive she sees in the students when the club meets every Friday as the main reason for her commitment to coaching them.

“It’s an honor, and it’s nice to know what you’re doing has the impact you’re hoping for,” she said of being nominated for award. “Their success, ambition and desire to find opportunities to explore the field they’re looking to be in in the future makes it worth it.”

Tourneux noted that Torresson spends more time working with the students than just 3 to 9 on Fridays.

Torresson is the Discovery teacher at Hewlett Elementary School, a STEM- based class teaching science, technology, engineering and math. She also serves on the endowment fund board, and is a key organizer of Arts Below Sunrise, a one-day community street festival across a closed section of Broadway between the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library in Hewlett and Irving Plaza in Woodmere, which this year will be held on April 30.

Star had Torresson as a teacher in third grade, and their connection sparked Star’s interest in building and programming specialized machines. “When I joined high school, I knew I was going to do robotics, because Ms. Torresson was there and that was why I joined,” Star said. “She was someone I always stayed in contact with.”

John Roblin, first vice president of the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association, noted Torresson’s commitment to the club, and her students. “My son Nate was on the Robotics club for all four years in high school until he graduated in 2017,” Roblin wrote in an email. “After his sophomore year, the robotics coach stepped down and there was a possibility that would be the end of robotics. Ms. Torresson stepped in to keep the teams going. She gives a huge amount of her time and dedication to robotics.”

At the March 12 competition, RoboBoogie captured the tournament’s top honor, the Inspire Award, presented to the group that best shares its experience, enthusiasm and knowledge with other teams, the community and judges. RoboBoogie advanced to the First Tech World Championships next month in Houston for the second consecutive year.

Hewlett High’s Bionica team won the Connect Award, given to the team that best connects with its local science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, community. Team Innovo got into the semi-finals and finished in the top 12.

“She is such an amazing person,” Tourneux said of their coach. “Nothing is possible without Ms. Torresson.”