FIRST to recognize Tri-C Youth Technology Academy robotics program with documentary video
January 11, 2017
Every year, hundreds of students from every high school in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District participate in Cuyahoga Community College’s Youth Technology Academy (YTA). The aim of the academy is to expose area students to the career opportunities in the technology field.
But of all the possible technology-related career paths that students can explore, one always seems to stand out: robots.
It’s understandable in an era when kids grow up playing with robot toys, video games and electronic gadgets. If you grew up in the 1960s or after, robots, and the idea of what robots could do, was present in your life from an early age.
And why not? Robots are just plain cool.
That’s why Team 120 is the most selective program within the YTA. Out of the hundreds of students in the YTA, between 20 and 30 get to participate on Team 120 every year.
The several dozen students who make the cut to join Team 120 get to design and build a robot from the ground up, and then enter their creation in regional competitions. Each spring, the team brings its robot to the FIRST Robotics World Championship Tournament – which Team 120 won last year.
That alone would make for a great story. But when you consider that Team 120 is one of the few teams comprised almost entirely of students from inner-city high schools, their 2016 national championship takes on another layer of meaning.
It’s something FIRST will chronicle when they visit the Tri-C Metro Campus from Jan. 17-19 to interview Team 120 mentors, sponsors, alumni and others who have been important to the program. The interviews will be used to produce a documentary video that will debut at the 2017 FIRST national robotics tournament, to be held in Houston in April.
“The question everyone has is, how can a community college engage inner city kids in training that leads not only to winning a robotics championship, but also leads to opportunities for technical jobs once they enter the work force,” said George Bilokonsky, the YTA’s executive director. “That’s our main purpose, and once FIRST saw the workforce training initiative, they became intrigued by what we were doing.”
The goal of the documentary is to inspire other community colleges to develop technology programs for high school students.
“FIRST wants our team to be there when the documentary debuts,” Bilokonsky said. “They want our kids to talk about their experiences and what the program has meant to them. And that’s really the message we want out there – not just that we have a great program or that we won a championship, but that programs like this can have a real and lasting impact on students and their future careers.”