Guest Blogger: Denise Woods on ROBOTICS – Who What Where When How of a STEM program

Who: Riverdale Country School Award Winning Robotics Team, Knights of the Rectangular Table (KoRT) consists of 7 middle school boys. The group was formed last year by 4 sixth graders (now 7th graders), who included 2 of the original members of RCS Students of Color Lower School Program. The team is coached by a two dedicated Riverdale parents and a faculty member.

What: This year over 150 teams from around NYC registered for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League Food Factor Challenge, taking on the difficulty of exploring food contamination. The RCS KOrT team tackled the problem of peanut contamination in the peanut butter making process. They explored improvements in growing, roasting, blanching, grinding and jarring peanuts, which featured a Lego display of all the processes. The Food Factor Challenge is a three-part robotics challenge that consists of and recognizes top performers in the following categories: The Project – Research, Presentation and Innovative Solution The Robot Game – Mechanical Design, Programming, Strategy and Robot Performance The Core Values- Inspiration, Teamwork and Gracious Professionalism

Where/When: The two RCS Middle School Robotics Teams, Knights of the Rectangular Table (KoRT) comprised of seven boys, and six sixth grade girls calling themselves Sassy Six Sassy debuted at the January 21st, FIRST Lego League Food Factor Challenge Bronx Qualifier held at Lehmann High School. The Knights of the Rectangular Table took 1st place in the borough overall, but were also awarded 2nd place in the Robot Performance and won an invitation to compete on the March 18th NYC Regional Competition at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC. Here they were one of fourteen teams representing the Bronx in competition against 46 other teams from the NY/NJ region and were recognized here by taking second place in the Project Category for Innovative Solutions.

Why/How: At the RCS Middle School new clubs are formed with relative ease, at least five students and one faculty member to supervise are the prerequisites. This after school team, formed last year by a group of boys who enjoyed having fun playing and creating video games elevated their shared interests with the support of the school to form a robotics team that also sparked the interest of some female students. These highly motivated students and coaches met weekly on Thursday after school and Sunday afternoons at RCS working on robot design, perfecting missions and their research project. Most importantly their success stemmed from the genuine fun they had getting together as friends, engaging in a shared interest of technology and finding creative solutions to problems.

As a parent supporting my child’s interest I was pleased to see my child courageously and confidently make the most of his independent school education by becoming involved in his destiny, creating something where it did not exist. RCS has joined the ranks of a huge movement of highly technical and creative middle school and high school students worldwide by starting this team.

Lehmann HS students served as referees at the Bronx qualifier and participated in their own age appropriate FIRST Robotics Challenge at the NYC Regional in March. Here they created robots that performed basketball and bowling challenges against local teams from the Tri-state area, national teams from Pennsylvania, California, and international competitors from Brazil, Great Britain and Turkey to name a few. While there is obviously a certain degree of technical aptitude required to compete, just having the desire and interest are all that’s needed as the league will assist teams in getting the necessary training to compete.

Lastly, the FIRST foundation awards millions in college scholarships to high school team participants. FIRST has truly ignited the field of STEM education by creating programs that stir the curious imaginations of young people everywhere. It pays to get involved and create things where they do not exist……. Congratulations Riverdale Country School Robotics!!!

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