Sunday, June 23, 2024

Members of the Community Charter School of Cambridge’s Robotics First Tech Challenge team work on its robot, called “da Vinci.”

Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, a group of 12 meets in lab space in the heart of Kendall Square and, using collective expertise in hardware, software and outreach, works on a project called “da Vinci.”

And every member of the group hopes “da Vinci” crushes its competition.

The “da Vinci,” of course, is a robot, and the group of 12 building it is the Community Charter School of Cambridge’s inaugural Robotics First Tech Challenge team. “We named our robot ‘da Vinci’  because da Vinci is credited with the first tank designs,” said Tristan Pepin, a 10th-grader and one of several project leaders on the team.

Founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, First is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity that designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.

“It’s incredibly energizing to see students sit together and talk through problems, sometimes near the point of arguing because both sides are so passionate about their point of view,” said Renee Sullivan, one of the group’s mentors. “I believe after-school programs are tremendously important for students, especially ones like robotics. They give the students an opportunity to apply the skills they learn in class to practical, real-world problems. So, since my company, PTC, has such a huge involvement in First, starting a high school First Tech Challenge team made a lot of sense.”

The team travels to other schools and statewide events to compete in a variety of robotic challenges. In addition to Sullivan, the group’s mentors include school science chair Corinne Kielbasa, Carl Morrissey of Vecna, Mark Long Jr., a freshman at Northeastern University, and Jesse Moskowitz of Vista-MA.

“As an Americorps Vista for the year, one of my responsibilities is to start and support First Robotics teams in Boston,” Moskowitz said. “CCSC has been one of the highlights. The students at CCSC have shown an incredible work ethic and rigor towards their building their robot. The respect they show to each other, and to their school, is really special. During competitions, they’ve exhibited a lot of resolve and a great sense of humor.”

The school’s program is made possible with grants from Akamai, PTC and First.

Tenth-grader Biondy Lisieux says the science and technology work is challenging and fun, but he enjoys the camaraderie most. “I’ve met some great people who like the same things I do,” he said. “That makes it fun.”

For information about CCSC, click here.