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NY1 covers the "Connect A Million Minds" initiative, a five-year philanthropic program by parent company Time Warner Cable to inspire students to pursue learning opportunities and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Connect A Million Minds: Harlem Team Prepares For Robotics Competition

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TWC News: Connect A Million Minds: Harlem Team Prepares For Robotics Competition
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More than 40,000 students across the country participating in the FIRST Robotics competition are gearing up for their regional bot battles, including one Harlem team making their final preparations for New York City regionals at the Javits Center. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

They tinkered away with only days left before the deadline and put the final touches on their robot before it had to be bagged and tagged and sent off to FIRST officials for the regional robotics competition.

Harlem Knights team members at the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem raced the clock to get their bot in working order.

"The hardest part is the deadline," said Kayla Loperena, a senior and a member of the Harlem Knights. "We have six weeks to build a 120-pound robot that can play whatever game they give us, and every year, it's different."

This year's FIRST Robotics competition is called "Ultimate Ascent". Students had to construct robots that can not only toss discs into goals, but also climb pyramid-shaped structures in the middle of the court.

From the wheels, to the wiring, to the climbing arms and the disc launcher, these students emphasized the importance of helping each other.

"I want to be able to teach somebody how to be able to do something else so I can trust them to do it," said Julian Frost, a sophomore and a member of the Harlem Knights. "Not do it for me, but so they can train themselves and be able to learn how to do it."

But there's more here than meets the eye. Not all students participate in the physical building of the robot. One part of the team focuses solely on fundraising, public relations and team management.

"It's not just building the robot, but dealing with all the funders, dealing with publicity, and trying to apply for awards," Loperena said. "Because not only winning the competition is important, but you have to show gracious professionalism, which shows you can work well with other teams and still improve yourself."

And in the end, it's all about what happens after FIRST.

"We are really try to help the kids understand more about what engineering is and getting them to see engineering as a viable career path," said Joel Bianchi, the coach of the Harlem Knights. "Using science and technology is something really useful for them."

For now, the Harlem Knights' past creations watch on as they focus on wrapping up this year's robot for the Javits Center regional, which takes place on March 7, 8 and 9.

For more information about science, technology, engineering and math opportunities in your neighborhood, visit connectamillionminds.com.

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