November 2012

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Teaching Robotics for the Next Generation

Albert Davis: Training young minds.

Davis currently teaches 60 public school children between Fourth and Eighth Grades, teaching them basic robotics skills and lets them experiment in building their own machines...“I saw the value of it pretty quickly, teaching kids,” Davis said...

For the last year and half, Albert Davis, a Community Resource Coordinator at the Zimmerman Center for Recreational Robotics in the Bronx, has been teaching robotics to school children in hopes of raising a new generation of scientists and general experts in the world of gizmos.

An SSEU Local 371 member and Department of Parks and Recreation worker for the last 12 years, Davis currently teaches 60 public school children between Fourth and Eighth Grades, teaching them basic robotics skills and lets them experiment in building their own machines. There are currently two other programs such as this in the city, one in Manhattan and one in Staten Island.

‘Perfect’

“I saw the value of it pretty quickly, teaching kids,” Davis said when he moved into his facility in a small, quiet Bronx playground. “I came over and saw it and I said, ‘Perfect.’”

Davis, who worked as a computer programmer in the private sector before coming to the civil service, said that his program is part of a general effort to increase education in “STEM,” which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“It’s a nice buzzword, but what does it mean?” Davis asked rhetorically when he spoke about his teaching program.

He noted that bringing in the children to play and explore with robotics gives Albert Davis: Training young minds. them the opportunity to discover their skills outside of a purely academic setting. Davis noted that when children enjoy this and excel at it, he can explain that this is actually the type of work scientists do, hoping that maybe they’ll pursue this type of education in a more serious way.

Helping Schools

What’s more, his program is giving the schools a chance to see how important this program is in hopes that the Department of Education might enhance its robotics training.

“The schools get to see this. They come here for free,” Davis said. “They see the value of it and then they want to expand this in schools.”

He added that the Parks Department was committed to the program, and that funding for his program came directly from the budget and wasn’t a part of a grant process.

“To their credit, the agency is promoting education,” Davis said. “They’ve put in a significant investment.”

A Sense of Community

Davis comes from the private sector, but he enjoys this work more.

“I have a strong sense of community,” he said. “The private sector was fun, but I was missing something.”

That “something” was the feeling of pride he gets when school children are working collaboratively on projects, putting their minds to work on robotics, without a teacher pressing them on to do so just for a good grade.

“When a bunch of kids are around the table, fully engaged, you’re just like ‘Yeah, this is good stuff,’” he said.

 

Social Service Employees Union Local 371
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817 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
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