Joseph Crowley gives $10K for Maspeth LEGO program

Jonathan Bayne, 20, a Maspeth Town Hall robotics instructor, demonstrates the capabilities of the LEGO robots students can build during a news conference announcing funding for seven after−school robotics programs in the area. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Jeremy Walsh

Children in seven schools in Maspeth and surrounding neighborhoods will be getting a head start on electronics programming and robotics by working with bricks.

LEGO bricks, that is.

Maspeth Town Hall just received a $10,000 grant from U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D−Jackson Heights) to expand the after−school LEGO robotics program it recently started at St. Stanislaus Catholic School in Maspeth.

“We know our country is in a deficit as pertains to the number of engineers we produce, and this is an intriguing way to … instill that interest in kids,” Crowley said at a news conference last week.

He hopes the students will eventually compete in citywide robotics contests and maybe even nationwide contests, like the Brooklyn students whose LEGO work got them entry into Atlanta’s World Robotics Festival next month.

Maspeth Town Hall staffer Jonathan Bayne, 20, backed Crowley’s optimism.

“If we could get that, that would be amazing,” he said. “But we’re just getting started.”

The Queens programs will open at six other sites as soon as the check clears, Maspeth Town Hall Executive Director Eileen Reilly said, at PS 229 in Woodside, PS 102 in Elmhurst, IS 73 in Maspeth, PS 12 in Woodside, St. Sebastian’s in Woodside and St. Adalbert’s in Elmhurst.

The nonprofit Town Hall has trained its staff and volunteers to work with the sixth−, seventh− and eighth−graders at the schools. They hope to serve between 100 and 150 children with the kits.

During the program, students start with programmable LEGO Mindstorm bricks containing light and collision sensors that detect a wall or the end of a tabletop. Adding wheels and other standard LEGO parts, they create complete robots and race them against one another.

Maspeth resident Dylan Powers, 13, an eighth−grader who participated in the pilot program at St. Stanislaus, said the best part about it was seeing the finished product.

“You just feel proud of yourself,” he said, noting he hoped to teach the course to other students when he gets older.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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