Youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington now know firsthand what it takes to build robots and understand the significant role robots play in society – thanks to a 10-week program delivered by a team of Verizon information technology volunteers.
Eighteen club members, ages 9 to 14, from the Richard England Clubhouse #14 and Hopkins Branch Club received recognition for their achievements at a special closing ceremony Wednesday (Feb. 6) at the Boys & Girls Clubs facility in Northeast Washington.
"This initiative is part of Verizon's ongoing commitment to community service and the youth at Boys & Girls Clubs," said Angela M. Congo , Verizon's director of information technology and executive sponsor of the community outreach program. "The program was designed to emphasize the real-life, everyday use of robots in our society and generate interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM].
"Our goal was to demystify the knowledge and skills needed to pursue technical careers by offering students hands-on experience through our robotics program," Congo added. "We are so pleased at the excitement this program has generated and, more importantly, at what the students have learned and were able to accomplish."
During the closing ceremony, students displayed the robots they created and shared their experiences in the robotics program. Verizon awarded each student an iPod Shuffle and a variety of other prizes.
Pandit F. Wright, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, said: "During after-school hours in America, approximately 15 million children are at home with no adult care or supervision. Support from partners like Verizon is critical to ensuring that every child we serve has a safe and positive place to go after school. We are grateful for the work Verizon and its employees have done with creating impactful character-building programs for our young people."
At the program's kickoff session last September, students saw different examples of robots performing many critical, automated tasks ranging from basic mathematic functions to brain surgery.
The students learned that robots take many forms, such as humanoid, submersible and industrial. And the students were exposed to famous robots, such as the Mars Rover; the British Petroleum remotely operated vehicle that was essential to cleaning up the Gulf oil spill; and Asimov, a humanoid robot that walks, climbs stairs and supports the disabled.
Congo said: "The Verizon volunteer team, with support from the Boys & Girls Clubs staff, set out to ensure that our budding technologists had a challenging, informative and fun experience while applying STEM concepts to build, program and operate their robots. Each week promised new learning opportunities."
Students successfully completed the program and built fully functional robots capable of navigating with programmed commands; reporting sensor status with light and sound; and escaping contact by touch using whisker sensors.
Verizon's information technology team, which has members around the world, has partnered with organizations that help at-risk, disadvantaged and underprivileged youth by mentoring and training them in technology, leadership and literacy. These organizations include local Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, schools and other community-based groups.