Press Release: Philadelphia Robotics Coalition publicly launches, seeks funding to expand impact

Already impacting 22 schools, the Coalition seeks $75,000 additional annual funding to increase reach to more schools across Philadelphia

September 22, 2018

PHILADELPHIA — Dr. William Hite, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, joined with Philadelphia elected officials, philanthropic leaders and educators to help publicly unveil the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition and its $75,000 fundraising campaign to make robotics programs accessible to every Philadelphia public high school student.

The Philadelphia Robotics Coalition was quietly launched in 2016 to supplement STEM education in Philadelphia schools. It connects schools with financial resources and mentors to start and sustain FIRST robotics teams.

Teams supported by the coalition face off against other schools in the FIRST Tech Challenge in which they design and build robots that work together in teams to perform specific tasks. This year, the challenge is called Rover Ruckus — a space-themed game where robots mine ore on an imaginary planet to earn points.

Last year, thanks to support from the Neubauer Family Foundation, the coalition was able to serve students in 22 schools — running workshops and providing grants and mentors that expand engineering and science opportunities while teaching skills in leadership and teamwork.

“High-quality STEM education and robotics programs are extremely important because they help our students learn how to think critically, problem-solve, and ask questions about their surroundings,” said Dr. Hite. “They also help students prepare for meaningful college and career experiences, whether or not they pursue a STEM-related field. We are proud to partner with the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition to help expand these opportunities to more students across the city.”

Dr. Hite was joined at an event Saturday by City Councilman Bobby Henon, District students and teachers, Rebecca Cornejo, Executive Director of the Neubauer Family Foundation, and Michael Johnson, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition and Central High School’s robotics coach.

The coalition was founded to ensure continued funding and support for science and engineering programs in Philadelphia during times of fiscal uncertainty. To confront this issue, the RoboLancers, Central High School’s robotics team, stepped up and launched the coalition to support a collaborative ecosystem that supports robotics teams through grants and mentorship.

“When I started at Central in 2014, the number of FIRST Tech Challenge teams in Philadelphia was dwindling,” said Johnson. “We launched this Coalition to bring stability and robust support to Philadelphia teams so that our robotics community could grow and flourish.”

The Neubauer Family Foundation stepped up and agreed to become the coalition’s first major philanthropic supporter, through a three-year $25,000 per year challenge grant.

“The Coalition has thus far exceeded all of the milestones set forth in our grant—engaging greater numbers of students, teachers, mentors and supporters than anticipated,” said Cornejo. “And, this is only the beginning. The Coalition has great potential to not only impact thousands of students in our city, but also provide a path for innovation in robotics and STEM education nationwide.”

The $75,000 the coalition seeks to raise will enable it to intensify its support for teams already in the program, building stability that will ensure their longevity, while also expanding the program to more schools across the city.

In addition to financial support, the coalition connects teams to adult engineers, tradespeople and other professionals who can serve as mentors to teams and inspire future careers in STEM. Last year, the coalition began a partnership with the U.S. Navy to provide mentors to teams in six schools.

“Mentors make all the difference for students looking to get involved with an exciting chance to get hands-on experience with STEM,” said Vicki Baker, the coach of the robotics team at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, which receives grant funding from the coalition. “I have witnessed students with no background in robotics, engineering or science for that matter learn the creative problem-solving process, dive into engineering design and win competitions. They have become eloquent public speakers, expert writers and have been transformed into conscientious students eager to pursue STEM careers and college.”

The Girls’ High team has been a consistent winner, qualifying for the state championship two years in a row. “For me, robotics has redefined the word ‘impossible’,” said Lynda Lam, a senior on the team. “‘Impossible’ no longer means we can’t. We’ve experienced success — now there are nothing but endless possibilities.”

Contact
Megan Lello, mlello@philasd.org
Michael Johnson, contact@roboticscoalition.org

RoboRUMBLE 2018

RoboRUMBLE, the annual FTC off-season event for Philadelphia area teams, was huge success! This event was sponsored by the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition and the Central High School RoboLancers. During this event, 13 Philadelphia teams participated in FIRST Relic Recovery at Central High School, located in Philadelphia, PA. While photographing this event, I was able to witness first hand the excitement and competitiveness of these wonderful teams. It was interesting seeing all of the different ideas develop into 13 individual robots. During this event, the Student Advisory Committee of the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition was introduced. This committee serves to include a diversity of ideas and opinions from students all across Philadelphia. Students will be able to connect with business leaders, mentors, government, and be a part of the decision making process of the non-profit organization.

Additionally, we were able to give numerous awards to deserving teams, dedicated coaches and special volunteers. Thank you to all the teams and volunteers that participated!

Philadelphia FTC Qualifier 2018

On January 20, 2018, the RoboLancers hosted the Philadelphia FTC Qualifier at Central High School. It was a fantastic event with 25 teams from the Philadelphia area attending and competing in Relic Recovery over the span of the 8 hour event. Many of the teams funded by the Coalition participated in the event, such as 8730 Robogriffins, 13240 Swenson Robotics, 6552 N.E.R.D.S., and 5514 Parkway Robohounds. The winning alliance included 8730 Robogriffins, 6540 Lincoln1, and 5320 RoboLancers Gold. Although these three won the event, many other teams walked out with rewards for their endeavors, such as the Inspire Award, Connect Award, and Judge’s Award, won by 8480 Technobots, 6552 N.E.R.D.S., and 10002 Herculean Dynamite respectively. All of the Coalition funded teams performed well at the event, from winning awards to being on the winning alliance, showing just how much hard work and dedication these teams put into FIRST. Overall, the FTC Philadelphia Qualifier was an exciting event that highlighted the capabilities of Philadelphia’s robotics teams.

Grant Recipients of 2017-2018

The Philadelphia Robotics Coalition is excited to announce the teams receiving grants for 2017-2018. These grants are given to teams serving Philadelphia high school students as part of our mission to bring robotics programming every public high school in Philadelphia. We look forward to working with these teams throughout the year:

  • Academy At Palumbo
  • Edison High School
  • Frankford High School
  • Franklin Learning Center
  • Hill-Freedman World Academy
  • Lincoln High School
  • Northeast High School
  • Parkway Center City High School
  • Philadelphia High School for Girls
  • Project HOME After School Program
  • Swenson Arts & Technology High School
  • The Workshop School

 

Apply for an FTC Team Grant (2017/2018)

We are seeking applicant teams to receive the Coalition FTC Grant to compete during the 2017–2018 FTC season. Grant amounts range from $1000–$3000. Some grant funds are distributed in the form of EC pay for School District of Philadelphia teacher coaches.

If you are a Philadelphia high school teacher or principal interested in starting an FTC team at your school, or securing additional funding for your existing team, apply HERE!

 

Press Release: Central Robotics Coalition team captains winning alliance at Philly FTC qualifier

February 5, 2017 | For Immediate Release

The Philadelphia High School for Girls’ Technobots, led its alliance to victory in the Philadelphia FTC Qualifier on January 28th, 2017.

The Technobots are one of six teams supported by the Central Robotics Coalition, a new initiative of the Central High School RoboLancers to expand robotics programming in Philadelphia public schools. The RoboLancers work with these teams to provide funding, technical mentoring and business support to help them grow their own capacity.

The Technobots are now moving on to compete in the FTC State Championship competition at Dallastown Intermediate School on Feb. 25.

A second coalition team, Abraham Lincoln High School’s Lincoln1, reached the semi-finals as the captain for its two-team alliance.

In this year’s FIRST Tech Challenge competition, high school robotics teams have to work together in a series of shifting alliances to skillfully maneuver their robots to accomplish a variety of tasks within the two and a half minute Velocity Vortex game.

This was the first competition for the six teams which are part of the new Central Robotics Coalition. The Coalition is a new initiative of the RoboLancers to expand robotics programs to additional Philadelphia public schools. It provides funding, mentors, workshops and support to teams to create an ecosystem that introduces students to STEM.

In addition to Girls High School and Abraham Lincoln, teams that received grants from the Central Robotics Coalition include: Edison High School, Frankford High School, Parkway Center City, and the Workshop School.

The Coalition is initially funded through a transformative three-year challenge grant from the Neubauer Family Foundation, which promises $25,000 this year and up to $50,000 in matching funds for the second and third years.

This was the first opportunity these teams had to compete against other schools. Girls High School will go on to compete in the state championships — demonstrating the early impact of the coalition’s work with these teams.

All six teams that are funded by the coalition performed to the best of their abilities and showed the hard work and effort they put into their robots. While some of them will not be moving on to states, they still have time and resources to improve on their robot.

With this marks the end of the official FTC season for many of our Coalition teams, but there is still another exciting opportunity for teams! We will be holding an FTC off season event on May 13th at Central High School. We hope to see you there!

Media Contact
Michael Johnson | 267-666-0246 | contact@roboticscoalition.org

Press Release: New Robotics Teams Prepare for Competition

January 26, 2017, Philadelphia, PA, For Immediate Release

Twenty-six robotics teams from schools across Philadelphia are set to go head to head in a qualifying tournament at Central High School on Jan. 28.

Teams have to work together in a series of shifting alliances to skillfully maneuver their robots to accomplish a variety of tasks within the two and a half minute Velocity Vortex game as part of the First Tech Challenge, or FTC.

This will be the first competition for the six teams which are part of the new Central Robotics Coalition. The Coalition is a new initiative of the RoboLancers to expand robotics programs to additional Philadelphia public schools. It provides funding, mentors and support to teams to create an ecosystem that introduces students to STEM.

This gives students the opportunity to be exposed to diverse interests as they learn how to code, build robots and work on the business and social media aspects of their teams.

The Coalition was founded after cuts to Philadelphia robotics teams over the past several years caused many to disband.

Teams that received grants from the Central Robotics Coalition include: Girls’ High School, Edison High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, Frankford High School, Parkway Center City, and the Workshop School.

The event is free and open to the public.

The qualifying tournament follows a scrimmage hosted by the Coalition and Central High School on Jan. 14, where hundreds of students, ranging from 4th-12th grade all across the Philadelphia area, had a chance to get a feel for the game.

 

Event Schedule and Team List
http://www.ftcpenn.org/ftc-events/2016-2017-season/philadelphia-qualifying-tournament

Media Contact
Michael Johnson | 267-666-0246 | contact@roboticscoalition.org

Inquirer: In Philly schools, a robotics reboot

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“Our experience at Central is the richest when we have a whole community of robotics teams around us to work with,” said Michael Johnson, a science teacher and the head coach of what has grown into the largest student group at Central, with 100 participants. “We want to open up new opportunities elsewhere. We’re talking about an ecosystem.”

Read Kristen Graham’s article in this morning’s Inquirer!

Press Release: Central Robotics Coalition Restarts Philadelphia Teams

November 14, 2016

The RoboLancers, Central High School’s award-winning robotics team, is excited to announce the launch of a new initiative to provide funding and mentors to restart robotics teams in schools throughout the city.

The Central Robotics Coalition’s mission is to connect businesses, universities, and foundations with Philadelphia public high school robotics teams, building an ecosystem of mentorship and support for the next generation of STEM and business leaders in our city.

The Coalition is beginning work immediately to provide money, mentors, and training to restart FIRST Tech Challenge robotics teams at schools where teams have gone dormant due to lack of funds. In its first year, the Coalition has the capacity to restart six teams. The teams at Edison High School, Frankford High School, Philadelphia High School for Girls, Lincoln High School, Parkway Center City High School, and The Workshop School have signed on for Coalition support.

In the last two years, at least 13 Philadelphia FIRST Tech Challenge teams have ceased activity. Many of these teams, including the team at Edison High School, were founded in 2011 with funding from the federal GEAR UP grant administered by the School District of Philadelphia. After competing successfully for four years, that funding was abruptly cut, forcing the teams to shut down.

“Our Central Robotics Coalition grant is a blessing,” said Edison Coach Barbara Bess-Pashak. “It will allow our kids to get back to the competition where they belong.”

The Coalition is initially funded through a transformative three-year challenge grant from the Neubauer Family Foundation, which promises $25,000 this year and up to $50,000 in matching funds for the second and third years.

The Coalition is now seeking additional pledges of support for the coming years to double the number of teams served, including the creation of new teams. This will allow the Coalition to take full advantage of the matching funds offered by the Neubauer Family Foundation, and to diversify and secure the funding stream to ensure program stability.

In addition to funding, the Coalition will help pair teams with adult mentors who can assist the students with designing, building, and programming their robots. These mentors will also help students learn the fundraising and public speaking skills that are crucial for a team’s stability and success and which will prepare students for careers in a wide array of fields.

To identify mentors, the Coalition seeks to develop partnerships with universities and businesses that could recruit students or employees to devote two to four hours a week to mentoring students. Mentors in programming, development, communications, and mechanical design and building are all in high demand.

The Coalition is modeled after the FLL In the City grant program of the University of Pennsylvania, which provides funding, mentorship, and team support to elementary and middle school FIRST LEGO League teams in Philadelphia, Camden, and Chester public schools. The Penn FIRST LEGO League program is coordinated by former RoboLancers coach Daniel Miller-Uueda, who is now the Associate Director of Education and Outreach at the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab.

“We’re glad to have a partner organization stepping in to support high school robotics in Philadelphia,” said Miller-Uueda. “It’s important that our FIRST LEGO League students in Philly have the opportunity to continue in robotics after they graduate eighth grade and age out of our program.”

“For years, the RoboLancers have been known for their outreach efforts, sending Central students and microgrants around the city to support other teams,” said Sabrina Dormer, a Central senior and the team’s president. “Now the Coalition will magnify those efforts by bringing more money, mentors, and support than we could have provided alone.”

Thomas Davidenko helped shape the Coalition as it was first proposed in April, shortly before graduating from Central and the RoboLancers. He now studies International Business at Temple University and has been hired by the Coalition to coach current students through the realization and administration of the Coalition program.

“My years on the RoboLancers taught me the value of what can be gained by working together, and inspired me to pursue that idea on a grand scale,” said Davidenko. “The Coalition will bring ever more students into robotics programs where collaboration and innovation go hand in hand.”

The larger goal of the Coalition is to support an ecosystem of schools, foundations, and businesses to provide a pathway for Philadelphia’s public school children to explore, study, and find employment in STEM fields here in our city.

“By forging ties between high schools, colleges, and industry, Philadelphia students will see a clear path of opportunity and inspiration leading them to become our city’s next generation of engineers and innovators,” said RoboLancers head coach Michael Johnson. “We are excited at the opportunity the Neubauer Family Foundation is providing us and look forward to expanding this program to meet the needs of students in schools across Philadelphia.”