The NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) hosted the FIRST Lego League tournament aimed at 400 kids aged 9 to 14 in Polytechnic institute. Twenty-four teams, with an 80 percent NYC school base and 20 percent community center base, came out to challenge each other to see whose robot was the best.
Each team was given the same amount of Legos from the start and was given a deadline of eight weeks to design a robot to compete in the tournament with obstacles to overcome. The more obstacles the robot conquers, the more points were given to the team
“The point of the program is to put fun back into learning technology at a time when science begins to be a disinterest for middle school kids,” said Bill Chong, deputy commissioner of youth services at DYCD.
The competition was a day-long event, with lunch provided to all the attendees by the Wallace Foundation and direct cooperation of Polytechnic Institute, which also funded the Lego pieces that the kids used to build their robots.
DYCD works to oversee after-school programs to keep kids interested in math and science, and wants kids to become the next technology leaders of their generation. This was the second year that the competition was held at Polytechnic.
“We’re seeing returning teams, which means the program is gaining momentum,” said Daryl Rattray, assistant commissioner of DYCD's Beacon, Cornerstone and Work Readiness Programs.
The kids expressed interest as their eyes and hands were glued to their creations, touching them up with last minute repairs before each round. And when the bells rang to start the competition, they were all excited to see their robots competing to win and to show off their skills in robot building.
“My team worked hard at what they built and its nice to see them excited about it,” said Raul Quinonez, 19, who works at the Flushing YMCA.
The DYCD has close to 600 kids in their programs Rattray added, and he hopes that it will keep growing, especially their interest in science.
“There is incentive to join our programs now with the support we’ve had from our sponsors, the kids get better opportunities that way,” said Kristian Breton, program manager of the out-of-school time programs.