Members of the Patchogue-Medford High School robotics team had a sneaking suspicion they were invited to this week’s Kiwanis Club of Patchogue meeting to receive a donation.
They had no idea it would amount to a whopping $5,000.
It was only after the students’ presentation at Brickhouse Brewery Tuesday night that the Kiwanis Club members whipped out a giant check and surprised them.
“We know you’ll use it wisely” club president Mark Charvat said during the applause.
“I am so grateful,” said student and team member Emily Ferrari.
Aside from their usual community service work, Emily and the rest of FIRST Robotics Team 329 have been touring Patchogue since summer seeking donations and sponsorships after losing $30,000 in annual awards from Motorola Solutions Inc., which recently left Long Island.
“We were familiar with them and their work,” Charvat later said. “And we just wanted to be there to support them, and get it out there in the community. Because everybody likes to think Patchogue-Medford lacks in a lot of these types of things, but when they see what these kids are doing they’re amazed.”
In an interview later, team advisor Kevin Ray said the $5,000 will go toward keeping Patchogue-Medford among the best on Long Island.
“We have to fundraise for our capital equipment,” Ray explained. “And we’ve been wanting to make a major purchase, a CNC Plasma cutting machine. This is something we’ve been saving up for and this [donation] might just be enough to put us over the top.”
As part of their pitch, the robotics team members not only explain what they do with the team, but highlight what Team 329 does to support the community, and by getting younger children — with a special program for girls — interested in what’s called the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math.
Last year, graduating members of Team 329 (there are now over 5,000 teams in the country) were offered $1.1 million in scholarships. The team’s seniors were offered $1.21 million in 2014.
Soon they will face the six-week challenge of creating a robot that could perform a task — whether it’s throwing a ball in a basket or a frisbee in a slot — in competition against other teams’ robots.
Pat-Med has gone to the world championships nine consecutive years, a record for Long Island.
“Not only do they stimulate their minds to excel, but they educate themselves on how to be great leaders down the road, and understand what it means to give back to the community,” said Kiwanis Club member Nicholas Harding, who organizes one of the club’s fundraisers, Santa’s 5K Toy Trot.
“We thought it’s important to help keep a club like that going, and if possible, expand over time.”
Click here to sign up for the Dec. 6 race, which starts at 11 a.m. in Shorefront Park.
Photo: Emily Ferrari reacts to the $5,000 donation announcement Tuesday night. (Michael White)