Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Robotics in the Bronx in NY Times Today

A great story on robotics by Sam Freedman in today's NY Times metro section.

And almost every one of the coaches of the 142 teams in NYC that have participated this year have stories to tell about the kids that were changed by this experience.

Photo by Gary Israel at Saturday's robotics tournament at Riverbank State Park.

The Bronx robotics story is worth expanding upon beyond the Ridder kids.

I was working with people doing a video for FIRST in Atlanta last April at the Word Festival (among teams from almost every state, int'l teams included Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel and teams from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong - FIRST might solve world problems) and we interviewed the Principal, Claralee Irobunda who said she would have robotics throughout the school and curriculum if it was possible. Think the DOE "test 'em every minute of the day" program interferes?

Laura Rodriguez has been a major supporter of this program from the time she was a District and then a regional Supt and now as the head of a Learning Support Network. She hired Gary Israel.

Gary has put together a massive operation in the Bronx along with 5th year teacher Evan Weinberg (a Tufts engineering grad who became a teaching fellow and teaches at Lehman HS), a bunch of engineering students from Columbia organized by the amazing Wayne Penn who is now in a Phd program in Boston in medical engineering and also working for FIRST founder Dean Kamen on the artificial arm project. Wayne comes down to NYC constantly to help out and was at our tournament at Riverbank State Park this past Saturday.

They provide the kind of support for the schools with training for teachers and kids that exists in very few places (other than in Region 4 when it existed) and it has survived all the reorganizations.

A whole bunch of us are going to Tokyo at the end of April with the Ridder Kids and possibly another NYC team for the Asian Open FIRST LEGO League tournament.

To their credit, the NYCDOE press office played a very supportive role in working with the Times on this story. Thanks to David Cantor and Maibe González Fuentes for their work on this - now you skeptics who say it was an obviously feel-good story, stop rolling your eyes. I've been doing this stuff for 6 years and this is first time they've showed an interest.

You can track NYC robotics doings at my other blog:

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