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These youngsters form like Voltron, are robot-makers in disguise

Robot wars! Teens do bot battle at NYU-Poly

Brooklyn Daily
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The battle of the bots hit Downtown last weekend.

Nearly 400 teenagers took part in the New York City First Tech Challenge Regional Championship, a robotics competition at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering on Saturday, where the machines fought to perform everyday tasks harder, better, faster, and stronger than the rest. Youngsters who came out had a blast and said being able to form like Voltron was key to prepping for the well-oiled rumble.

“It was amazing,” said 18-year-old Kim Rawlins, a senior at It Takes a Village Academy in Flatbush whose team built three prototypes and one final competition robot in six months. “You have to come together and you give different ideas and come together for one big idea. It teaches you how to work as a team.”

The teens were tasked with making their machines pick up blocks and balance them on scales, climb to the top of a bridge, and perform a pull-up for extra points.

Simple as these procedures may sound, not just any spring robot-chicken can pull them off, according to an organizer.

“If you want to enter these fields, you need to be prepared, and the bars are pretty high,” said Ben Esner, director of the Center for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education at NYU-Poly.

The adults on hand said they were impressed with the kids’ creations.

“The students are way ahead of where I was at that age,” said James Cox, who is getting his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at NYU-Poly and mentored a team.

Eight of the 36 competing teams advanced to the national finals, which will take place in Pennsylvania in April. Of the winning teams, four were all-girl teams despite the fact that only one in 10 of the competitors were young ladies.

Rawlins, who is from Guyana, said she would like to introduce robot-building completions to her country.

“It helps you to think outside of the box,” she said.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
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