Benjineers Robotics Team Makes Their Way to the World Stage


The Benjineers VEX Robotics team consists of freshman Ollie Olsson-White, junior Jack Hilzenrath, senior Ryan Riutta, freshman Kate Hilzenrath, and freshman John Lacy. This successful team won the State Championship, and is on their way to the World Championship, where they will compete with 4284 other teams.

Tvisha Goel and Evan Liberman, Co-Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor

If there was a competition for the coolest club name on campus, the Benjineers would surely win. Despite this, few know exactly what it means to be a Benjineer.

The overarching goal of the Benjineers is to build robots and rockets for competitions–not only to bring glory to the school but also to give Benjamin students the chance to become familiar with engineering.

“The great thing about Benjineers is the fact that much of what we do involves problem-solving: there’s
never an easy way to solve a problem we face. Allowing students to experiment and grapple with engineering problems gives them the resilience they need for the real world and prepares them for future engineering projects,” said senior and Benjineers Co-President Ryan Riutta. He and fellow senior Jack Horgen head the
club’s two divisions: robotics and rocketry, respectively.

According to Riutta, the Benjineers’ work begins on the computer rather than at the workstation, which
is a large desk on which robots are assembled. Through a program called Com-
puter Assisted Design (CAD), the Benjineers experiment with designs and tinker with imported robotics
models, allowing them to save time (nearly 10 hours per machine, according to Riutta) since the program allows the Benjineers to figure out how all the parts of their machines will function without having to do any physical construction.

“Instead of having to prepare a saw and cut metal over and over, you can just use CAD
and, in two computer clicks, you get the same thing,” explained Riutta.

Next, each division gathers and constructs the design they created on the CAD program. After weeks (and
sometimes months) of refining their robots and rockets, the Benjineers are
finally ready to compete.

“We participate in roughly 2-3 competitions a year, though there were a lot more before COVID-19 hit. Each competition gathers 40-60 teams from the area in a bracket format where teams face off in matches. [The competitions] really are a team sport for us: together, we look for the best strategies to employ and ways to improve our machines based on the competition. It really is a lot of teamwork for us,” stated Riutta.

Normally, the Benjineers arrive at their competition, which is typically held in high school gyms in Miami,
at around 8:30 AM on a Saturday.They then ensure that their robot complies with the competition’s requirements. After a bit of waiting, the team then heads into their first match of the day and, afterward, assesses their mistakes and tinkers with their robot. This process repeats over and over again until around 2:00 in the afternoon. Then comes the elimination bracket, which is where each of the remaining 32 teams forms an “alliance” with another team. These “alliances” square off until a winner is declared. All in all, the Benjineers spend nearly 12 hours at each of these competitions, but, according to Riutta, the process is exciting and invigorating.

Despite the Benjineers’ being popular since their inception in 2017, Ms. Debra Peretta “reinvented” the program when she became its faculty advisor in 2019. She said: “We started our robotics program which is pretty robust and we started a rocketry pro- gram which was non-existent when I got here. It’s a lot of work but I learn every day. It’s fun and we have a lot of laughs. We’ve got a great group of kids.”

Now, the Benjineers’ VEX Robotics team, spearheaded by Riutta, is on their way to the World Champion-
ship in Dallas, Texas, from May 4 to May 8, where the team is ranked 229 out of 4285 in the world. Of 86 teams in the region, only 14 are awarded sports on the world stage.

The Benjineers Program, on the rise, will continue growing to surmount great things.