Robotics Allow Lower East Side Students To Have Their Own "March Madness"
Updated: 02/26/2011 01:39 PM
By: Shazia Khan
Fans of college basketball are familiar with March Madness, but high school students in the Lower East Side are gearing up for another March competition of their own, in the field of robotics. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
Bela Rios, a 15-year-student at University Neighborhood High School on the Lower East Side, never imagined working with wrenches and wires. Yet now she is putting the finishing touches on a robot she helped to design and build at her school.
"In the beginning, I heard about it and thought 'Robotics, not for me. I don't do robots or anything mechanical. I'm kind of a klutz.' But I came by and they did really, really awesome stuff," says Rios.
She is part of the high school's robotics program. Since January, the group has been gearing up for next month's FIRST Robotics regional competition at the Jacob Javits Center.
With a couple of crates of surplus parts supplied each team, they are working to fulfill this year's mission -- to create a ring-tossing robot.
"Just giving life to something that doesn't have life is just amazing, in my idea," says student Aaron Ng.
Robotics coach Stanley Friedland says this program often serves as an introduction to real-world pursuits for many of his students.
"Right now, it's a hobby for them, but then they find themselves really enjoying what they are doing and they go onto college and they go on to their future," says Friedland.
Nelson Ortiz, a college freshman studying engineering, was part of the high school's robotics program and now serves as its mentor.
"I sort of had a small passion, but after doing this it really motivated me to go further," he said.
Vicente Wilson, a mechanical engineer with New York City Transit, also volunteers his time.
"They really benefit a lot with the skills with the electrical skills, programming skills, even life skills, how to work in a team," says Wilson. "So they can take what they learned in robotics and they could apply it to their lives."
For now, these students are looking to the more immediate future, hoping their robot "Silver Lightning" strikes gold in the competition.
For more information on FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and other programs designed to engage kids in science, technology, engineering and math, visit connectamillionminds.com.
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