Most Valuable players 2010/2011 season

Team Bios

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

1910 Theodore Roosevelt

2013/2014 Team Bios

Alec Solder

Alec is the senior captain of team 577. He is a senior at Staples High School. This is his fourth year in robotics and the robotics program is run in his home. Alec will be attending Carnegie Mellon University next fall where he intends to dual major in Mechanical Engineering and Robotics. 

Alec is passionate about many aspects of science and engineering. In addition to robotics awards, Alec was a 2013 state finalist and received the honor of doing an oral presentation at the CT Junior Science and Humanities symposium on a biometrics project he did at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge MA and Yale University. Alec was also a state finalist for both the Alexion Award in Biotechnology and the Pfizer Award in Life Sciences, at the 2013 CT Science and Engineering Fair. Previously, Alec received a CT Science and Engineering Fair Engineering Award for a pneumatically-powered physics science project designed to save swimmers, for which he also received the Goodrich Award for Excellence In Engineering. For that invention, Alec also received the CT Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) Award, CT Invention Convention Recognized Inventor Award, the CT Safety Science Award and the Stanley-Black & Decker Tools Award. Alec enjoyed several summers taking courses in engineering, math and physics at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and studied RobotC one summer at Brown University. In the summer of 2012, Alec worked in a social robotics laboratory at Yale on a project to help children with autism. This past summer, Alec worked in an astrophysics laboratory at Yale studying blasars.

In addition to his scientific pursuits, Alec has played lacrosse for more than six years and was a member of the Staples rugby team. Alec’s interests also include playing the bass. He plays the upright acoustic bass in the Staples Orchestra, in 2010 received the 1st Place Honors Musician Award and served as the principal bassist in the Fairfield County Strings Honors Orchestra, and he also enjoys playing rock on the electric bass.

Max Liben

Max is a senior at Staples High School, co-captain  and loves to solve problems and challenge himself.

Every day, Max balances his passions with his schoolwork. Max has been playing the cello for more than 10 years and participates actively in many local music groups. Max has received numerous awards for his playing. In 2011, he was granted an award by the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity for his excellence is performing. He has performed two concertos with the French Woods Symphony, and is Associate Principal in the Norwalk Youth Symphony. He has also played in the Connecticut Western Regional Orchestra and All-State Orchestra. He occasionally performs for community service with Wreckers In Tune, a club at Staples whose goal is to share the musical talent at Staples with local communities.

During the summer, Max  has traveled to Italy and Spain to play with the Norwalk Youth Symphony. He has also performed in Carnegie Hall and will being performing at Tanglewood later this year.

Max is also a counselor-in-training at French Woods Festival over the summer. When he isn't playing in the symphony, he enjoys wakeboarding and performing in aerial circus acts.

He is a long distance runner for the Staples Cross Country and Track teams in all three seasons during the school year.

Max and his fellow classmates garnered third place during their first year participating in the Staples Spectacular Challenge and are finalists again this year. The Staples Spectacular is a competition where students are challenged to find solutions to community and school-related issues.

His creativity and perseverance give him a knack for solving problems and allow him to contribute mostly to the design and programming aspects of the robotics team.

In college, Max is looking forward to majoring in Engineering and designing more efficient energy systems to create a less wasteful and more environmentally friendly future.

Troy Fantini

Troy is a senior at Staples High School, this is his third year on the team and he is a co-captain.

In August 2013 Troy participated in an educational outreach summer internship in Aspen Colorado at the Aspen Center for Physics where he conducted experiments and was a featured speaker at the ‘Cool Jobs Forum’ lecturing on robotics and STEM.  Troy also participated in the “World Science Expo”, in Aspen, where he displayed the team’s robot and spoke to a thousand spectators about the robot, robotics and the FIRST program.

‘A Journey to Tronozard,’ a science fiction story that Troy wrote when he was 10 years old, won a National NASA award. NASA published the story and sent Troy to the US Space and Rocket Center on an all-expense paid trip.

Troy’s experiment, “Boiling in the Stratosphere” won the Colorado Western Regional Science Fair competition, and won Honorable Mention at the State Competition.

He was also honored at the “Colorado School of Mines” for achieving highest honors with the Western Academic Center for Bright Kids, for scoring in the top .5% of grades 6-10 when he took the ACT in 7th grade.

Troy has worked and interned with the Aspen Physics Institute, in Aspen, Co.

He has been given Principals List Awards for every year of his academic life.

In addition to academic achievements, Troy has starred in eleven musicals and plays, three with professional companies. He also plays piano, saxophone, and is a songwriter. 

Other activities include playing rugby on the Staples High School team, snowboarding, playing ice hockey, water skiing and wake boarding. He has recently rebuilt a 1968 Volvo p1800 and a 1988 Kawasaki KDX 200 dirt bike.

Eric Pan
Eric is a senior at Staples High School.  He was a part time member of the Robotics team last year and decided to join full time this year after catching the Robotics bug.  Eric has always had an interest in how things work and how to make them work better - from designing and building a simple wooden car that won in a local Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby to taking apart mechanical toys and redesigning them to be more efficient. 

Eric has spent his summers broadening his knowledge base by attending programs offered by the Center for Talented Youth (2011-Foundations of Programming, 2010-Principles of Engineering Design) and in 2012 he participated in a Video Game Design course at University of Southern California. He has also been mentoring under Dr. Nicholas Morgan at Staples High School while working on a 3-year science research project.  The main goal of the project is to develop an optimal process for data transfer over the Internet. Eric also enjoys soccer, skiing, table tennis, and badminton.  He played on the Freshman and Junior Varsity teams at Staples as well as on the Everton America Regional Premier Team. Eric is a volunteer at the Westport Public Library.

William Moeller

Will is a senior at Staples High School but new to the robotics team. A leading member of the Staples Television Network and Staples Theatrical Players Tech Crew, Will is the go to man to make things happen behind the scenes. Whether building sets, rigging lights, mixing sound, editing video, or directing broadcasts, Will leverages technology and cajoles teamates to seamlessly bring ideas to life. He was recognized for his outstanding contributions with the Staples Media Department award in 2012.  An avid scuba diver, certified Rescue Diver, Kayaker, Sailor and fisherman, Will is happiest in warm weather on the open sea. Thriving on personal challenge, Will completed the Spartan Challenge in 2012 and will be recruiting his robotics and rugby teammates to join in the 2013 challenge to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity, for whom Will has built homes locally. An expert marksman and New England Archery Champion,  Will enjoys setting his sights on a goal and meeting his mark.

Parker Stakoff
Parker is a senior at Staples and focuses on the programming and software aspects of robotics.

Parker discovered her passion for programming in eighth grade when her computer class was introduced to Scratch, a program created by MIT. She quickly got the hang of how to program with it and started making interactive animations, games, puzzles, and more. She was later approached by faculty who asked her to design and deliver a public, hands-on course to help students learn how to use Scratch in creative and efficient ways. This event took place at the Westport Public Library.

Parker’s love for programming grew throughout high school. In the middle of ninth grade, Parker taught herself how to program with server side and client side languages which allowed her to program a website for Staples students to share their class schedules with each other. This allows users to easily view who will be their future classmates in upcoming semesters. The site is also used for printing formatted copies of the schedules. Parker updates every year and it currently has over 1500 users. Aside from this main website, Parker has also programmed websites for various clubs and organizations. She is also working on a web app to improve efficiency in the school cafeteria. Her innovative and creative work earned her the Xerox Award for Innovation and Information Technology in the eleventh grade.

Parker intends to pursue a career in a field revolving around computer science. She attended Carnegie Mellon University for six weeks during the summer of 2013, where one of the classes that she took was a computer science course. Despite Parker’s largely science and math oriented side, she takes great pleasure in theater and creative writing as well. She has both performed in and worked for the tech sides of over ten plays since the age of eleven. She consistently writes poetry and short stories, and is currently working on a fiction book.

Ian Blanchardon

Ian is a junior at Staples High School.  This is his third year in robotics.  He has been enjoying building and designing at the Eli Whitney Museum   since he was 6.  During those years, he learned how to imagine, to create, and to be resourceful using wood, and other materials.  Ian has built model ships and planes and equipped them with motors.  He is also a member of the math club.   In addition to engineering and mathematics, he is passionate about classical music and languages.  He won a full scholarship to study mandarin Chinese, Startalk level three at Choate.  He has been practicing classical guitar with the summer program of the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal where he combines his love of music and languages; he speaks fluently in French and Spanish with composers such as Roland Dyens, Manuel Barrueco, or Pepe Romero.   His desire for excellence in music gave him the opportunity to win first place in his age category in the International Classical Guitar Competition held at Columbia University in Georgia in 2011. In his free time, Ian likes to fence saber.

Christopher Severini
Chris is a senior at Staples High School and has been a member of the team for two years.

Christopher is a senior at Staples High School in Westport, CT.  He has been a member of the Wrecker Robotics team for two years.  This year Chris is a co-leader of the fund-raising and community outreach efforts for the team.   His responsibilities include bringing in donors/sponsors, mentoring middle school students on robotics and building awareness of robotics as a key STEM initiative in the Westport community.    His leadership on these efforts reflect his plan to double major in Business and Liberal Arts in college next year.

Christopher’s favorite academic classes at Staples High School reflect his varied interests …Physics, Pre-Calculus, AP Environmental Science, AP European History and Honors German.    Christopher has played the bassoon in the Staples Band and Orchestra for four years.  He has played in the orchestra for all the Staples Players Theater productions.    His sports are Rugby and Water Polo.

Christopher is a strong believer in the future of Robotics in the Westport community.  He has been working closely with the new students on the team to 

Arjun Dhindsa 

Arjun is a sophomore at Staples High School (SHS) in Westport Connecticut, where he is a FIRST Robotics team member. He has lived in Westport since 2004.

Arjun is very enthusiastic about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) especially Engineering. He is passionate about Mathematics and Physics, and is also an avid member of Staples Math Team. Arjun loves competing in both national and statewide math competitions regularly. He is one of the few Sophomores in Multi-Variable Calculus, which is the highest math class in the SHS’s math department. He completed three AP courses in freshman year, two of them being math subjects and one science. In addition to attending math team regularly, he also participates in the Engineering club at SHS. In middle school, Arjun received the Presidential Academic Award in 2011-2012 school year. 

Arjun enjoys sports such as Squash, Tennis, and Taekwondo. In middle school Arjun was a member of the #1 National Squash Team in the National Team Squash Division II championship in 2011. Arjun holds a second degree black belt in Taekwondo and is currently working towards his third degree black belt test. He has competed in many state level competitions, where he has gotten Gold as well as Bronze medals. He has also qualified for nationals twice, both times in Forms and Weapons, and once in Breaking. Arjun also enjoys listening to Indian classical music and plays Violin, Clarinet, Harmonium, and Tabla. In addition to English, Arjun is fluent in Punjabi and is working towards Hindi.share his experience so they will continue the program long after he and the other seniors graduate this year.

Madeline Schemel
Madeline is a junior at Staples High School. This is her first year on the Robotics Team and she has jumped right into building and programming. She enjoys science and math and won a Staples High School Chemistry Award in 2013. She and four friends also placed second in the Spring 2013 Staples
Spectacular Student Challenge, a 12 hour competition to read, analyze, research, synthesize, and finally solve, a real-world problem. She has been a starter on the Staples Varsity basketball team since the end of her freshman year. In addition, she enjoys reading every fantasy book she can get her hands on, oil painting, and racing sailboats in regattas on Long Island Sound.

Dylan Gleicher
Dylan is a freshman at Staples High School. This is Dylan's first year in robotics.
Dylan has always been interested in technology. He has been writing software code since the third grade.
Dylan is totally self-taught and versed in HTML, PHP, ObjectiveC, XML, Flash, C and C#. Dylan also has the ability to write source code for Oscratch.

Dylan started up and served as Webmaster of Westport's Positive Youth Development website. Dylan worked directly with Patty Haberstroh, Parent Education Coordinator at the Department of Human Services. Dylan has also created apps for the iPod/iPhone that are sold in the Apple App Store. Dylan has worked in conjunction with Ebay in creating a software application that uploads products to their marketplace.

Dylan has a passion for baseball, and has been playing on teams locally and on summer travel leagues for many years.

Noah Pines 
Noah is a sophomore at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut and a first year Wrecker Robotics team member.

At 10, Noah took a course in Scratch (a beginner programming language developed by MIT) and became so enthusiastic about Scratch that he ended up teaching a class at his own elementary school. That experience lead him enthusiastically to the programming courses at Staples High School which he is currently enjoying.

Noah has been interested in engineering since he was very young, building marble runs, domino tracks and Rube Goldberg type machines in his spare time. Any time that there is a machine or device being worked on, Noah is glued to it. With science and math as his favorite subjects, Noah is very interested in the programming aspect of robotics.

Outside of the mechanical world, Noah plays piano voraciously and studies with jazz pianist, Chris Coogan. Currently a member of Staples’ theater troupe, Staples Players, Noah made his debut in 2012’s Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! This fall he was cast in Thoroughly Modern Millie and intends to continue performing in addition to his other activities.

During the summer, Noah is a camp counselor in Michigan at The Boys and Girls Club of Bay View. In addition to leading a group of campers, he also works in the Sailhouse maintaining Sunfish and Harpoons. His summers in Michigan also include regular participation in the Bay View Music Festival, where he has been in musicals and operas as well as studying vocality and dance.

Noah’s favorite type of music is classic rock and he enjoys film.

Sage Vousé
Sage is a Junior at Staples High School, and a first year robotics member. Driven by an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields, Sage was a member of her middle school Math Team. In the summer, she works at Camp Invention in Westport, helping elementary children learn essential STEM concepts through creative hands-on activities. 

This year, she was one of ten to participate in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's first-ever 3-D Scanning and Printing Summer Intensive for teens.  Sage is currently part of the Museum's Teen Advisory Group, where she helps develop courses, preview exhibits, plan events & blogs. 

Outside of STEM activities, Sage enjoys the humanities and arts.  She has been an active member of the Staples High School debate team, this year becoming president. In the last three years she has received both individual speaker awards, recognition for being a Connecticut Debate Association State Finalist, and notoriety for consistently participating in the Yale Parliamentary Invitational Debate.

Sage enjoys culinary chemistry, cooking & volunteering with Staples High School Chef.  Having studied the violin for seven years, she has served as first Violinist in her high school orchestra and is also exploring other instruments.  Despite her classical roots, Sage enjoys listening to contemporary music with her friends. She also has a passion for figure skating during cold winters.

Sage greatly enjoys studying various languages and recently traveled to Guyana with Builders Beyond Borders to help build a community center.

Jim Zhang
Jim is a sophomore at Staples High School who joined the Robotics Team this year, after being lured in by the spectacular robot from last year. He has been living outside Connecticut for most of his life, but has quickly adapted to the community.
He has learned some C++ and Java from online tutorials in 7th grade, and hopes to make himself useful in designing the robot's software aspect. He takes part in the math team and plays competitive badminton. He has learned to play the classical guitar on his own and enjoys doing hobbies in spare time.

Ken Asada
Ken is currently a junior at Staples High School. This being his first year doing robotics, focusing on several aspects of the team including social media, graphic design, community outreach, fundraising, in addition to working on the robot.

He also handles public relations at the high school’s debate team, where he has been competing at the varsity level since his sophomore year. Outside of school, Ken practices Kyokushinkai Full Contact Karate, training as a second-degree black belt in his seventh year of doing martial arts. In his spare time, Ken enjoys gaming, drawing, film making, and animating. In 2011, Ken placed second in Cablevision’s Educational Access Awareness Award for an animation he made in Social Studies.

Michael van der Merwe
Michael is a sophomore at Staples High School and this is his first year on the Robotics team. He has always had an interest in design and has expressed an interest in becoming an engineer from a young age. Academically he enjoys math, science and programming. He also enjoys writing novels and has been a member of the Westport Writers Workshop for the past year. He is currently working on publishing his first short story. Michael also plays the violin in the Staples orchestra and avidly practices his instrument. 

Other activities include snowboarding, soccer, sailing, and cross country. He is a long distance runner on the Staples Field and Track team. Michael has been a counselor-in-training at Earthplace summer camp for the past two years. 

Dominic Wynter

Dominic is a Junior at Staples High School. He is a new member to the Staples Robotics Team.

From a young age, he was interested in STEM (primarily math), and studied extensively, often by himself. He pursued various math courses independently of school, and recently began attending courses at Yale University to study complex analysis. In addition to his work at Yale, he is a long-term member of the Math Team, having joined in freshman year. To date, Dominic has taken 8 AP classes, many of them in math and science. In 10th grade, he placed on the National Chemistry Exam, and was a semi-finalist for the international physics competition. Along with learning math and science independently, he enjoys studying linguistics in his spare time. In order to prepare for his career in robotics he has also taught himself basic programming to suit the needs of the team.

In his addition to his mathematical interest and ability, he is fluent in several languages including, French, Spanish.

He is avid Piano player, studying with a private teacher regularly. During the summer he participated in New York Summer Music Festival on Piano. If Dominic is listening to music, he prefers Classical composers over modern musicians.

Wrecker Robotics Alumni

Haris Durrani

Haris was a founding member of Wrecker Robotics.

Haris is currently attending 

Columbia Engineering – The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science in NYC.

He was a master builder and training new team members how to build. Haris has been doing robotics since 2nd grade, with simple Lego and K’Nex. He started with FIRST Lego League in 5th grade. That year, the team—the Cyborgs—won first place in research.  In Haris’ middle school years of FLL, the Cyborgs won first in programming several times as well as first in research several times. In addition to his passion for reading science fiction (which is primarily the only genre Haris reads with pleasure), he also enjoys writing S.F( he has written a SF novel and several short stories). His enthusiasm for robotics and S.F. writing/reading combined follow a symbiotic relationship, often fueling each other. Haris also has a love (of course, in addition to robotics) for other sciences, particularly chemistry and the concepts behind the budding field of neuroengineering .  Haris is also an editor for Inklings, the Staples HS newspaper, and Captain of the Staples HS Squash Team.  In 2011 Haris won the esteemed Scholastic Art and Writing Award: Art Portfolio Gold Award. 

Timothy Yang

Tim was a founding member of Wrecker Robotics

Tim is currently attending 

MIT studying Computer Science

Timothy had been participating in robotics competitions since sixth grade, starting with First Lego League in middle school and continuing with the First Tech Challenge in high school. He is a master programmer and trained the team on how to program. Academically, he enjoys mathematics and physics, which makes sense, considering his draw towards robotics and engineering. Timothy tends to be an introvert , yet he can be very humorous as well. At home, he enjoys watching online anime, preferring subs from dubs, and is currently watching To Aru Majutsu no Index. Stemming from his anime interests is his amusement with drawing, sometimes coloring his sketches in Photoshop. His dislikes include loud noises, loud parties, loud music, chaos, and people who make nonsensical arguments or identical statements sound meaningful through the use of charismatic manipulations. He also dislikes hypocrites, especially when analyzing literature. Musically apt, he is able to play the piano, violin and guitar. Timothy also devised the original idea of a dumpster style robot, stressing the simplicity and robustness of the design, and contributes greatly to the programming and related troubleshooting.

John Solder

John graduated Staples High School in 2012 and currently attends Yale University in New Haven Connecticut. In 2013, he was proud to receive a CT FIRST Alumni Network (CTFAN) scholarship generously funded by the United Technologies Corporation.

John has been engaged in biological molecular neuroscience research at Yale on a project using optogenetics to help repair diseases with light. In October 2011 John was selected as a National finalist in the Siemens/Westinghouse competition. In 2011 and 2012 John was a Regional Finalist at the Junior Humanities and Science Symposium (JSHS) and was invited to the National JSHS and to present to the CT Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE), he received Honors at the CT Science Fair and he was awarded 2nd place at the Southern Connecticut Invitational Science and Engineering Fair. In 2012, John received an award from the American Academy of Neurology, and at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair he received an award in Behavioral Science and the first place award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He received a scholarship from the International Society of Optics and Photonics. He is an author on a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to pursuing science. John was a member of the Saugatuck Rowing Team. John also plays the bass. He played the upright acoustic bass as a Principal bassist for the Norwalk Youth Symphony, served as bassist for 3 years at the Western CT Regional Honors Orchestra and as Principal bassist for the Fairfield County Strings Honors Orchestra. He’s also brought his electric bass skills to the Staples Jazz Band, serving as their principal bassist for 3 years.

Article on Siemens Regional competition

Articles on "Expert Minds" program that John presented at the Westport Arts Center

Erin Gandelman

She enjoys math, science, and engineering. She is currently taking Pre-calculus Honors and AP Biology. She is a key member of Staples Math Team, and earned 3rd place in the freshmen ranking for 2010-2011 Fairfield County Math League. She has won Third Honors and a Special Award in 2010 Connecticut Science Fairs for her chemistry project evaluating benzene in soda following sun exposure. She is also the President of Teen PeaceWorks Club at Staples High School.


David Kalb

David Staples High School in 2012 and currently attends Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He has a second degree black belt in Kempo karate, which he’s practiced for eight years. A varsity volleyball player at Staples, he’s also the captain of his travel club volleyball team. He is the founder of the Service League of Boys, a parent-son community service club at the high school, over which he presided for three years. For all three years, he’s won the award for most service hours. He has visited 39 states and six countries and spent a summer on a field ecology program conducting a study on the American Pika. He will be studying chemical engineering in college next year.

Dylan Roncati 
A member of the 2011 FIRST World Championship team, Dylan
has been involved in robotics and computer programming since the age of 7. He
has independently designed and built several award winning robots including
one capable of measuring the terrain of Mars. He took classes at both MIT
and Harvard on weekends for several years in engineering, artificial
intelligence, robotics, quantum mechanics, and advanced mathematics. He
has attended the Robotics Engineering Academy at RPI and the World Debate
Institute at the University of Vermont. Dylan now lives in France and is
studying engineering with a concentration in mathematics. He is the 2013
French National Vice-Champion of Robotics. Dylan is also a member of a
crew team, plays squash, the cello, and enjoys falconry and creative

Mrinal Kumar