Last Thursday was Race Day, a time when Trenton kids got to show off their newly built remote-controlled cars and race them down the gym at the Capital Area YMCA.
It was the end of a six-week program created by the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Guide Right Program called Kappabotics, which teaches problem-solving, analytical thinking, team building, and conflict resolution skills by letting students build a remote control vehicle.
“It’s a mentorship program combined with a robotics program. So each meeting involves a lesson on robotics. We’ve covered topics like collaborative robots. We’ve talked about the car and the automobile industry and how robotics was introduced to it by General Motors,” said Ron Jones, Guide Right Director.
Kappabotics introduces Trenton kids to STEM through remote-controlled cars. They were able to build the remote control cars and race them in the final week. “First, we buy the cars. The cars come only in parts…Over that six-week period, they get to see the car develop. They also get quizzed on the lessons they learned,” Jones said.
Volunteers helped create an atmosphere for kids to come in, ask questions, and learn about the effort it takes to build a remote control car. Jordan Stockton, from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc, was one of the volunteers.
“In session one, the kids were looking around, trying to figure it out… by session three, they’re coming in, and they already know where they’re going. They have a picture and a vision in their head, and by session five, they’re raring to go; they’re coming in and are getting straight to it,” Stockton said.
The free program had ten kids, with 15 to 22 mentors showing up each week. Each student was able to get a free car and leave with it after the race.
Stockton explained that programs like this set kids up to go into STEM. “It sets the groundwork for them. Maybe, when they get older and thinking by the time…they’re graduating, and they think you know what, I’ve kept this love for STEM, I might end up going to, hopefully, a Georgia Tech,” Stockton said.
Ericka Johnson-Jones is a West Trenton resident; both of her sons walked away with a trophy that night.
“I’m very proud of all the participants in the program. They did a great job. It was a skill that they didn’t have, and to see them put it together that accomplished it, it was awesome. So I love it,” Johnson-Jones said.
Johnson-Jones wants to see more programs like this in Trenton.
“It is very important because, unfortunately, a lot of our kids are from the hood or hood adjacent, and they need to be able to be exposed to different things… A lot of these programs are already embedded in the regular schools. In our school systems, it is not so. We’re forced to look at different places for these opportunities for our children,” Johnson-Jones said.
There are Rutgers Dual Credit courses in Trenton Public schools, where students can earn 14 college courses that coincide with the medical field. There are also engineering and robotics programs at the following schools, Trenton Central High School, Columbus Elementary School, PJ Hill Elementary School, MLK Elementary School, and Parker Elementary School. Director Jones explained that this program is just another way for students to learn about the STEM field.
“These students don’t have to pay anything additional. Their parents don’t pay any additional funds for this program. They’re already in an after-school program. We brought this to that after-school program… We need more affordable education.. If the rest of the world is learning advanced technology and advanced education, then just because you don’t have money, right, shouldn’t prevent you from being on that level,” Jones said.
Shirley Anderson, Trenton resident and mother, agreed, saying it sets their kids up to become the next leaders in the world.
“It gives them a broader way of life… it gives them ideas. My son wants to be a scientist. So this is a little part of that,” Anderson said.
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