East Harlem Robotics Students Seek Help Traveling to St. Louis for FIRST World Championship

Students from across the country will be heading to St. Louis next weekend for the FIRST Robotics World Championship. The team from the Urban Assembly School for Global Commerce in East Harlem will be making the trip for the first time — but they're asking for help getting there. Our Michael Herzenberg explains.

This high school team of robotics enthusiasts qualified for the championship by performing well at the regional qualifiers at the Javits Center here in March. But qualification does not guarantee a team will make the trip. Expenses are out of pocket and can cost over ten thousand dollars. For a small school like this without a wealth of resources the students have had to raise many of the funds themselves. 

"They're like alright, now you need ten thousand dollars," said Darleane Torres, Junior at Urban Assembly. "When it came to raising that, I learned everything that goes into that, with the bake sales as well as advertising for our team and our go fund me page."

The Department of Education is paying for their travel and lodging.

"But that still left us with the activities, with food, with ordering t-shirts," said Twinkle Familiare, the team's mentor. 

FIRST Robotics, which stands for "for inspiration and recognition of science and technology", is a more than twenty five year old organization started by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, who uses competition to teach high school students all the skills associated with designing, building, and operating a robot. It also aims to inspire those students to pursue STEM careers as they move through their post high school years. 

"I'm actually thinking of taking engineering when I go to college," said Urban Assembly Junior Cristy Galarza.

"You could learn a lot of engineering skills like wiring, computer science," said Velon St. Martin, also a junior.

To get to this point, they competed against 66 teams at the qualifiers, but at the championships they'll be going up against about 20,000 other students from 39 countries making up the 900 teams in attendance. 

"There's going to be a lot more competition and schools that we're going to be competing against, but you know we're still going to bring our A-game," St. Martin said. 

"Our bot is really good for a rookie team, so we're just gonna hope for the best," Torres said. 

On their go fund me page the team has so far raised more than three thousand of its five thousand dollar goal but the championship is less than a week away. 

"To learn more about them or to lend a hand visit the team's web site.  NY1 will be travelling to St.Louis for the championship weekend, with reports starting on Friday, April 29.

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