Award-winning junior scientists at Phoenix Community Learning Center

Tim Hoffine

Students from Phoenix Community Learning Center, one of six Fordham-sponsored charter schools, beat out students from eight other Cincinnati-area schools in a local robot competition in late February.

Phoenix’s team included six students who worked for months on Buddy 2.0, a one-and-a-half pound Lego robot that stands on two feet and rolls like a tank. Buddy uses a sensor to detect colors, which represent different environmental hazards that he is designed to clean up.

Starting in November, two students worked to build and program the robot, while the others shared the responsibilities of building a floor for Buddy to roll on and writing a report on environmental hazards. Students stayed after school three days each week to work on their robot, but as February drew closer they started to spend every day after school working on the project.

In March, the students made an oral presentation of their report and let Buddy do his stuff for a six-judge panel at the competition, which was hosted by the College of Applied Sciences at the University of Cincinnati.

For their work, the students won three first-place trophies (Total Points-Winner, Best Robot, and Creativity) and two second place trophies (Research Display and Oral Presentation).

“I think that it didn’t really hit home until we actually came back and could take a breath,” said Mrs. Sushumna Means, a teacher who served as an advisor to the students on the project.

Ms. Jenna Amatull , a science teacher who also advised the students, indicated that the experience was valuable from more than just an academic perspective.

“They’ve said several times they were working with students they wouldn’t typically interact with,” Ms. Amatulli said. “They really came together as a team. We had an incident with a student who was having behavior issues in class. The team really rallied around him. The girls were crying by the end of it.”

Since the competition, the students and their teachers attended an American Society for Quality dinner, and presented Buddy at Duke Energy’s tech show on May 4.