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Help Send Hendley Elementary Robotics Team to World Championship

April 12, 2018
What started as the vision of a dedicated and inspired STEM teacher to see a robotics program established at her D.C. school to help the low-income students learn skills such as coding, computer science, robotics, and team building skills has become a dream come true for the students at Hendley Elementary School. They have been invited to compete at the VEX IQ World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, at the end of this month.

After the Washington Wizards donated the funds for a STEM lab in the summer of 2017, the small robotics club began in October with three students meeting during recess. In less than a year, this inaugural group has far exceeded all expectations. Under the guidance of STEM instructor Mrs. Ramona Hutchins, the after-school club has grown to 15 members and become known as the Hendley ES Robonauts.

After gaining additional funding through the United Planning Organization (UPO) to help cover registration fees and provide access to increased levels of instruction and training resources, the Robonauts became a registered team in the DC League and began competing against students from 40 other D.C. schools at VEX IQ robotic events. By game two, they began winning the competitions, eventually becoming the DC League Elementary Teamwork Competition State Champions and placing second in the competition for Skills (driving and programming).

In preparation for the State Championship, this group of fourth and fifth grade students adopted the phrase “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!” and modeled this by giving up their recess times and staying after school until 6 p.m every day to work together conducting research on robots, engineering and ethics with the goal of creating a robot that would help, not harm, human beings and fulfill their competition motto of “Access Equals Freedom.”

They eventually decided to invent a prosthetic arm extension that would help wheelchair-bound individuals be able to access and retrieve items that would otherwise be out of reach, thus providing increased individual freedom and less dependence on others to complete everyday tasks.

Mrs. Hutchins believes that the educational benefits, communication and teamwork skills these students have gained will help them grow as 21 st century learners and produce far-reaching benefits. “I would like to see our students, who will become the STEM leaders of our world, help move us into an era of unknown and exciting possibilities such as using robotics to find the cure to cancer, outer space travel and living, reducing gun violence and protecting our environment, just to name a few,” she said. “The robotics program is so much more than just a recess and afterschool club; it’s truly an opportunity for our young scholars to use their imagination and STEM skills to change the world.”

Hendley Elementary students come from low-income households, and the public school lacks the resources and funding to cover the participation and travel expenses necessary to compete at the VEX IQ World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, taking place April 29 to May 3. 

An Edco fundraiser page has been established, inviting the community to help the team cover these expenses.  Only 15.5% of the necessary funds have been raised. Any contribution, no matter how small or generous, would be greatly appreciated by the students!