Brooklyn middle school robotics team learning life skills

WINDSOR TERRACE, Brooklyn (PIX1) — Most students wouldn’t usually jump to learn something new or sharpen a skill during their lunch period, but middle schoolers in Brooklyn have been doing it since the start of the school year.

Students on the robotics team at St. Joseph The Worker Catholic Academy are getting ready for the qualifying event next month for the FIRST LEGO League robotics competition. Members, including Torin Johnson, who’s on the 7th grade team, meet almost every day during lunch.

“I feel like we could all work together pretty well and tackle any problems that come our way with the project,” Johnson said.  

The students are coding robots made of Legos. The robots have motors and are tasked with completing different missions on the robot board.

For the qualifying event, they’ll have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to complete the missions, so this teaches them how to work under pressure in a timed environment and how to respond when things don’t go as planned.

Alvin Arnold is a math teacher at the school and also one of the coaches.

“The core values aspect of robotics [are] just being a team [and] treating each other with respect,” Arnold said. “Cooperating in situations that are stressful is great for them to build some of those leadership skills, the communication skills— all those things that will help them in any situation they’re in.”

New York City Council Member Shahana Hanif was born and raised in District 39 and made a commitment to the students that these programs will stay.

“The biggest priority is to make sure that programs like this robotics program in this school and across the district are not cut,” Hanif said. “Enrichment initiatives are so critical to the safety and success of our students in New York City.”

It’s also sparking an interest in the world of STEM for Tony Francone, who is in 8th grade, and other students.

“I mostly like coding and building the robot to do the missions that we’re supposed to [do] and I think it’s just a great experience getting to just play with Legos at lunch and make them do stuff,” Francone said.

The qualifying event is on Feb. 4 and they hope that will lead them to the city championship.