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Droid rage: Bots battle at Industry City robotics competition

Ten-wheel tyke: PS 1’s Rafael Garcia is ready to roll at a Lego robotics competition at Industry City on June 13.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

It was a robo rumble.

Kids from four area schools pitted their homemade automatons against one another in a Lego robotics festival at Industry City on June 13. About 150 people showed up to cheer teams from PS 24, PS 170, PS 230, and St. Agatha School as their bots raced through three challenges. But the program was less about pitting kids against one another and more a way to encourage their interest in science and technology, an organizer said.

“It wasn’t about competition per se — it was more about supporting children in the neighborhood as they learn about robotics for the first time,” said Yadira Hadlett, who runs an after-school program with her husband called “¡Sunset Spark!” that teaches kids in the four schools about science and technology.

Students put their droids to the test in three competitions — tug of war, balloon-popping, and capsule-collecting — so teams made three separate gizmos capable of accomplishing each task, Hadlett said.

In addition to learning programming, kids pick up skills normally associated with the humanities, a parent and educator said.

“It lends itself to all sorts of enrichment — vocabulary-building, life experiences,” said Kathleen Drain, an assistant principal at PS 230 whose son is on the school’s robotics team.

Community volunteer organization New York Cares also runs a weekend robotics class at PS 230, she said.

Industry City, whose leadership has said it wants to bring tech education to the massive manufacturing complex, hosted the bot battle, and previously let Hadlett’s group use its courtyard for instruction, Hadlett said.

“They seemed to really like what we were doing,” she said. “They are also trying to find ways to support local community, and it seems like a good fit.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Catch ‘em all: PS 24 student Amaya Balcazar rakes up plastic capsules in a race to amass as large a hual as possible.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

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