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Students learn robotics, programming skills at Brooklyn school

CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — Students at PS 241 in Crown Heights don't just use pencils and books; they also use iPads and robots.

The students, like 10-year-old Alickha McAllister, are the ones doing the programming for sphero robots.

"One of the challenges I face was if my sphero doesn't go in the right direction, what program must I do to make it go in the same direction as the shape?" said McAllister.

Students program the robots to navigate mazes, play soccer and knock down bowling pins.

While it seems like play to the students, they're actually learning the problem solving skills they'll need for their futures.

"We need more computer scientists because that's where the jobs are.  So, we're trying to start them out very early so they can have a chance in the future," teacher Jessica Silva said.

Like true computer scientists, the students learn that it's a process of experimentation, which means not all the robots make it through the maze the first time.  But it makes it that much more rewarding when they do.

"As they are exploring they are making sense of concepts," said Principal Frantz Lucius.  "And the concepts in this case is the relationships between speed, distance and force."

The school is one of about 500 throughout the city taking part in the the Mayor's Computer Science For All initiative.  The goal is to bring the program to every New York City public school by 2025.

"This is the kind of work they need to do in all courses and the kind of work they need to do once they leave school, so this is a great training ground for all of our students," Phil Weinberg, deputy chancellor at the Department of Education, said.

"It makes me feel excited because I never tried it before and now that I'm trying it I feel like I want to do it as a career," McAllister said.

And there's no doubt McAllister and all the other students in her class are on the right track.