REFUGEES EXCEL AT ROBOTICS — A robotics team comprised of Utica-area refugees who are ages 11-17 and led by SUNY Polytechnic Institute students placed in the top 15 at a robotics competition qualifier. (Photo submitted)

Robotics team overcomes barriers to share love of STEM

Published Feb 18, 2018 at 9:00am

MARCY — A first-year youth robotics team made up of Utica-area refugees and led by SUNY Polytechnic Institute students overcame several challenges to place in the top 15 at a First Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics competition, SUNY Poly said.

The team of 11-to-17-year-olds finished 13th among 23 robotics teams competing at the FTC Robotics Competition Qualifier at Sauquoit Valley High School.

In addition, the team took home the Judges Award, for unique efforts, performance, or dynamics that merit recognition even though the team does not fit into any existing award categories, said SUNY Poly. The event judges said “this team’s award is for exceptional teamwork....They crossed international borders and language barriers. They reached out in their community to share their newfound love of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).”

The team was started at the Midtown Utica Community Center by SUNY Poly senior Oghenekovie Evi-Parker, a mechanical engineering major originally from Nigeria, and Moe Zae, a SUNY Poly junior majoring in computer science.

“It is a tremendous source of pride for us at SUNY Poly to be able to reach out to the community and bring the knowledge and skills forged in our classrooms and labs to the next generation of young engineers,” said SUNY Poly interim President Bahgat Sammakia. “The students at the Midtown Utica Community Center faced numerous challenges while they sought to achieve their goal of forming a robotics team, but with the help and dedication of our students, together, they not only formed a team, but did so with stellar results. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for these bright young minds as we watch their future with great interest.”

Evi-Parker said “everyone has the ability to succeed if they have people believing in them. I had one of the kids on the team come to me and say ‘thank you for believing in us.’ Having her tell me that, it changed my entire perspective. The idea that I could give them hope and the opportunity to grow is amazing.”