Mr. Alan Ostrow, an Engineering Related Technology teacher at Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, teamed up with students from a small village in Honduras, to develop one of the most successful high school robotics programs, and was able to compete globally in a “Robotics Olympics”. Mr. Ostrow mentored the group of teenagers from Honduras with the help of his MBIT students. The students from Instituto Santo Tomas de Aquino in Camasca, Honduras built robots using kits from the global competition. Team Honduras traveled to United Arab Emirates to compete against 189 international teams in the FIRST Global Challenge on October 24th, 2019.
The partnership between Pennsylvania public schools, and the Honduran teens are made possible from a charity called Shoulder to Shoulder. Shoulder to Shoulder has been changing lives since it was established in 1989. The robotics global competition began in 2017 in United States of America — Washington DC, in 2018 the competition was in Mexico — Mexico City, and this year United Arab Emirates — Dubai. The Honduran teens traveling to Dubai left behind their families, and modest homes to embark on this adventure. Most Honduran families from the village of Camasca, where the teens are from, are only able to get water every other day, most have sparse electricity, and many don’t go past the 6th grade. Team Honduras however, is beating the odds, since they are all in High School, and furthering their education while competing in robotics.
Despite humble beginnings, the outcome of the competition was impressive. Team Honduras placed 15th out of 189 teams, and were awarded a silver medal “Judges Award”. Additionally, Mr. Ostrow mentored Team Ukraine, via skype and email, which was only one of the challenges. Team Ukraine was behind in getting the robotics kits that all teams use. So while most teams had months to experiment with the kits, Team Ukraine only had one week to prepare, and despite the short time, managed a 14th place overall in the robotics competition.
The experience of this global competition is more than placing in the event, but more about seeing that people are people no matter where they are from. Teens are teens no matter where you go, or where you are from. Alan Ostrow noted, “These teams are competing beyond their geographical lottery of their life, and with their potential, through hard work and doing things, can accomplish more than they imagined”. The hard work put in by students, outreach programs, judges, and teachers, spotlights the importance of robotics programs, teen competition, and global connection.