The NYU Tandon School of Engineering partners with NYC FIRST to run its FIRST Lego League (FLL) and First Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics competitions throughout the five boroughs. Teams have been attending workshops to brush up on skills or learn new strategies. 


NYC FIRST and the School of Engineering provide schools and teachers opportunities to access FIRST robotics programs and train coaches. Thousands of students, their mentors, and teachers will compete in the 2015/2016 tournaments. In the 2015 FLL challenge, Trash Trek, teams (4th – 8th graders) will design a solution to a current trash-related problem and build and program LEGO robots to complete a series of missions while also gaining teamwork and leadership skills. Participation in FIRST programs gives students a hands-on way to learn engineering, physics, math and computer science concepts.

IMG_3361Since the robotics season recently begun, New York City teams have attended clinics at the Engineering School campus. FLL team members from 3rd to 8th grade worked diligently with their coaches to complete their robot while engineering students were on hand for trouble-shooting. The level of engagement and dedication was palpable. Sheryl Liels, a coach from Cambria Center For The Gifted Child in Queens, explained why the students on her school’s team were so drawn to FLL. They use EV3’s, a very popular programmable robot/software to complete missions, which is fun and challenging, but she also sees enormous growth in teamwork among the students.


The positive effect of the FLL focus on teamwork was repeated by other coaches and team members. From Lab Middle School, Nora, the assistant coach noted, “There has been much improvement, especially in working together. I’m very proud of the team.” Faviel, on another middle-school team, “really likes the club because it’s a good break from school.” He also commented, “it’s hard to do all the missions with one robot but the team really works together.”

DSC_0041In addition to addressing teamwork and technical skills, FLL and other FIRST programs often serve as a way to increase inclusivity in STEM-related pursuits. The Robo Rebels – Divas for Social Justice are working to increase the proportion of girls in robotics and engineering.  Two members responded when asked what their team’s name meant to them; 5th grader, Kalola said, “I always see a lot of male coaches and I think that there should be more women because we can express just as much creativity.” Amia agreed and added, “yeah girls can do anything, it’s not for one gender.”



The ability of these young students to spend a weekend day focusing their effort on engineering challenges was impressive. While taking the work seriously, they are definitely enjoying it!






This short documentary, “This is What Young People Need” tells the story of NYCitySTEM, our partnership with the NYC Department of Education, which brought hands-on summer STEM education to 400 NYC public school students.

“This is What Young People Need” from Center for K12 STEM Education on Vimeo.

As part of NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s commitment to train 500 teachers and our dedication to access to and opportunity for high-quality STEM education, the Center trained 31 DoE teachers in either Robotics or Science of Smart Cities curriculum developed by SoE students. Supported by the Fund for Public Schools and Microsoft Corporation, pairs of DoE teachers and SoE students co-taught NYC 7th and 10th graders over 20 days in all five boroughs.

NYCitySTEM allowed these public school students to spend four weeks of their summer in an inspiring and immersive STEM education program, ending with an exposition attended by parents, teachers, NYU faculty, and community members where students showcased and explained their innovative, problem-solving designs. Through hands-on activities, students learned science, math, and programming concepts while building solutions to smart city design or robot task challenges. The project-based, group work allowed them to experience the engineering process; trial and error, creativity, discovery, the ability to learn from mistakes, and the benefits of perseverance.

Students were surprised by their own newfound passion for and talents in STEM while parents and teachers are eager for more programs like NYCitySTEM. We are grateful for support, encouragement, and trust from Carmen Fariña, New York City Schools Chancellor. NYU SoE looks forward to an ongoing and expanding collaboration with NYC teachers to make it happen.


  ARISE Research Progress


The ARISE summer research program provides select New York City high-school students with the opportunity to conduct hands-on laboratory research. Under the guidance of their NYU graduate student mentors, thirty-seven ARISE participants [pictured above] spent seven weeks this summer contributing to the research goals of sixteen labs across the NYU School of Engineering in Downtown Brooklyn, and the NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Washington Square. This week, we visited the ARISE students to learn more about their research experience.

Roy, a rising senior at Staten Island Technical High School, is working alongside Dhvanil and Shantanu in Professor Vikram Kapila’s Mechatronics Lab. Together, they are mapping the motion of a human arm, in order to build a robotic arm which will aid the rehabilitation of stroke patients with hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body). We asked Roy to describe his experience in the Mechatronics lab.

Roy-Finkelberg-2“I have been an engineer for precisely half my life. Engineering isn’t really new to me. However, it’s nice to be able to practically apply what I’ve learned in the classroom and through experience to the ARISE research program. Mechatronics is the intersection of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering. I find it incredible that high school students can come into a lab and create something so practical and useful. The feeling of figuring something out and solving a problem is really indescribable. You have to experience it for yourself. We do have engineering classes at our high school. In a large high school environment, it’s hard for everyone to apply what they’ve learned. In small individualized groups like this one, we can build things like our AC sensor and robotic arm that really show what’s possible.”

During our visit to Professor Levicky’s Bio-Interfacial and Diagnostics Lab, ARISE student Michele-Iane described learning about life as a researcher as well as learning about the specific research in her lab. Michele-Iane and her partner Samantha Paucar are working with their mentor Ursula Koniges to investigate the ability of various chemicals to aid in detection of small DNA molecules. Potential applications include identification of food and water supply contaminants, personalized medical treatments, and to discovery of molecular mechanisms behind diseases such as cancer.

Michele-lane-DetoucheAt first, my mentor would hold our hand through experiments, but now she is letting go. Lab work is a lot of responsibility, but it is also building my confidence. I love working with the tools, like syringes and the pipettes. One computer program that we used is the Nanodrop. We take a sample of DNA and put it under a machine, and that machine will record the amount of light absorbed. Seeing the visual measurements on the computer screen is really cool. My main goal coming into the ARISE program was to get a feel of engineering. I actually learned a lot about how research lab life works here. The graduate students here work as a team. They call themselves lab siblings, and I love the whole comradery of the lab. It’s awesome to be a part of this experience. I’ll remember this as probably the most productive summer of my life so far. Before going into junior year, I feel pumped and excited because I’ve been learning all summer. I’m taking this extra data analysis class for my junior year coming up, and I’m doing actual data analysis right now. In the future, I will thank myself for doing this. I feel like I’m helping myself and ARISE is helping me”.

Vicente, a rising junior at Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, was one of the first NYU Science of Smart Cities students during the program’s pilot year in 2012, as a middle school student. Now, Vincente is back at NYU investigating the effects of pile penetration (driving columns of wood, metal, or concrete into the ground to support building construction) on surrounding soil with his mentor Sophia Mercurio in Professor Iskander’s Soil Mechanics lab.


The first day I came in, I thought I was going to get a lecture about everything I was going to do this summer. Instead, I started out doing real lab work. I was surprised to find that I could actually do hands-on activities on my own, without my mentor constantly giving instructions. This is college work, and I was surprised that I could do it on my own. In my high school, the science and math classes involve presentations of what scientists are doing. When I come here to do research with Sophia, I get hands-on experience of what I see in the videos and presentations. I’ve always thought I was going to be a civil engineer. Going into the lab has actually fueled my passion for civil engineering.  My expectation of a scientist was someone who was always in the lab, 24/7. However, the scientists I work with in the lab are real people and not robots. They are fully committed to their work, but they also have time to take care of themselves. The ARISE experience prepared me for what I’m going to be doing. If I’m going to get into a STEM field, now I know what to expect.” 

The ARISE summer research experience is made possible by the generous support of The Pinkerton Foundation and The Driskill Foundation.



On Friday, August 14th, the twelve high school STEM teachers who participated in the SMARTER Research Experiences for Teachers program this summer in several NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Mechatronics and Robotics labs, presented their projects to lab members and professors. The teams of teachers, all used to speaking in front of a room full of people, were naturally effective presenters and full of energy and enthusiasm about their work. Two SMARTER projects focused on human arm motion, while others included testing the strength of materials used in building foundations, and augmented reality.


Marc Frank and Ramona Fittipaldi worked in Professor Joo Kim’s Applied Dynamics and Optimization Lab (ADOL) which studies human and robotic locomotion, balance, energetics, and stability. The teachers performed energy efficiency tests on the shoulder and elbow power of a robotic arm.  By changing speeds while the arm was moving they checked the stability and accuracy of the movements. The data set built through their collection and analysis will be used by ADOL for further experiments and tests.

20150707_RET_008Rather than an isolated learning exercise, this is an ongoing project to which the teachers’ work will be applied. “I was proud that it wasn’t something just for me.”, said Mr. Frank. While contributing to the ongoing work in ADOL, the teachers also expanded their own knowledge; Frank, a science teacher learned more about math and Ramona, a math teacher, learned more about science. They’ll use their lab experience to develop lessons for their high school students on Hooke’s law (a principle of physics that states that the force needed to extend or compress a spring by some distance is proportional to that distance), use and analysis of graphs and scatter plots, and use of a spreadsheet-based data management and analysis software such as Excel.

Daniella DiLacqua, a biology teacher, and Hau-Yu Chu, a technology teacher worked on a cost-effective ‪‎mechatronics‬-based system to quantify stroke recovery & ‪‎rehabilitation‬. In Professor Vikram Kapila’s Mechatronics Lab, they joined undergraduates, graduate students, and high school students on the project, “Upper Extremity Biometric System for Stroke Rehabilitation”.


Most methods to track stroke rehabilitation progress are low cost but rely on observations made by physical therapists or physicians (qualitative), not measurements (quantitative). Usually, quantitative methods are more expensive. To address this, they helped to develop a cost-efficient, compact, portable device, that could measure more than one arm or hand function at a time, and that patients could use from home. Their prototype uses an accelerometer (like those in a smart phone), flex sensors, and an arduino controller attached at different points on a patient’s arm and hand. In the future, as costs decrease, these could be swapped for smaller components and more sensors could be added. These teachers plan to develop lessons for their students about concepts such as homeostasis and negative feedback, based on how they were applied to the prototype design.

Read more about the SMARTER participants’ thoughts on their work on the project’s blog. The SMARTER RET is funded by the National Science Foundation.




The ‘A’ in STEAM is for arts. For the past two years, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s Center for K12 STEM Education has partnered with the Irondale Ensemble Project for its Science of Smart Cities middle school engineering design and ARISE high school summer research programs. To help these students become confident presenters of scientific information, Irondale employs theatrics such as role play, improvisation and group challenges. Their practice pays off at the SoSC Expo and the ARISE Colloquium when the students explain their work to their teachers, families, reporters, and NYU students and professors. Some SoSC and ARISE students shared their thoughts on the impact of Irondale workshops:


“In Irondale, you get the confidence you need to talk in front of many people. I actually used to be very nervous in front of people. In Irondale, we have challenges that make us stronger, and we practice to have a lot of confidence when the big day comes. The skills I have learned are confidence and stamina. I will use these skills in the future when I have a job and if I have to represent something that’s part of my career. After Irondale, I will have lot of confidence about what I’m going to explain.”  -Alan, SoSC

20150729_SoSC_Irondale_050“We learn how to speak, how to project our voice, and how to be more energetic. Later in life you can’t be shy. This Friday, we will use these skills when we are presenting. After Friday, we’ll use these skills… if we have a presentation in school so everyone would be able to hear and we might get a better grade. I wasn’t this bold before Irondale started. My voice was quiet. What I’m going to remember most are the skills and tips they taught us about presenting in general… don’t fiddle with your hair, don’t swing your arms back and forth, and remember to look around at the audience.” – Cameron, SoSC

“In Irondale, we learn how to express ourselves…get out of our comfort zone, and we learn that it’s not so bad to talk in front of crowds. Another skill we learn in Irondale is speech…when you touch and twist your clothing, bite your nails or put your hands in your pocket, you hide yourself, it seems like you’re unsure of yourself. You want to convince other people that you know what you’re talking about. Is it really difficult, to go up on stage and talk to a crowd? For me, it’s like being in a novel; you are the character, and you must present well to an audience of readers.” -Chelsea, SoSC

20150803_ARISE_Irondale006“Irondale…creates this fun atmosphere where no one’s judging each other and we’re all just having a good time while still learning. In any field, communicating one’s ideas and thoughts is vital, so Irondale not only helps us learn how to present thoughts in our colloquium, but also going forward in any situation where we need to convey our thoughts and ideas, we’ll have this skill to let people know what we’re thinking.” – Pranav, ARISE

“I think Irondale helps you project who you really are to an audience or to even to an individual. We have the colloquium on the 21st, so I think Irondale is going to be huge help for that… and in any future profession I want to get into, I feel like I have better communication skills now, I am more free to be myself…Irondale made me remember that everyone’s human and no one’s perfect. You see everyone mess up, and everyone’s being so silly, and it really makes me happy that everyone can connect by being imperfect.” – Pedro, ARISE

20150729_SoSC_Irondale_044“When you get questions thrown at you, you have to be quick on your feet. I think these skills are important in life not just ARISE, because there are going to be times where you have to present yourself a certain way, you have to look distinguished, you have to not be nervous. So being brave, being ready at a young age makes it easier in the future. When you’re looking for a job, when you’re interning…it makes that whole process easier because you’re not shy, you’re not nervous of the moment, and it makes opportunities come to you a lot easier too, because people like people that are ready, that are chivalrous, that are excited to learn.” – Ayinde, ARISE

“The skills we learn are how to be comfortable on stage, to not get nervous, to have a thorough and thought-up plan of what you’re going to say. Even if a question surprises you, you could still answer it comfortably, and use that question as a stepping stone to continue your presentation. These skills are important for everything…for presentations, for interviews as well, you feel more comfortable and you present better. Five to ten years from now, I’ll remember how Irondale Theater helped me become a better person at presenting.” – Jakub, ARISE

Thank you, Irondale, for another successful year of partnership and for providing young people with communication skills they’ll use for years to come.




This summer, the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s  Center for K12 STEM education was able to expand two ongoing programs into public schools across New York City under NYCitySTEM: Robotics and Science of Smart Cities (SoSC). These programs, developed and taught at the Engineering school by undergraduate and graduate students, use engineering principles and problem-solving hands-on activities to teach STEM concepts. By partnering with the NYC Department of Education and with support from Microsoft and the Fund for Public Schools, NYCitySTEM was launched in all five boroughs.


The forty-three NYU students hired as instructors trained NYC teachers in the curriculum which they then co-taught in schools. Hundreds of 7th and 10th graders spent 5 weeks designing, building, and testing robots that could complete tasks or models of smart cities while learning math, science, technology, and engineering concepts. Participants learned how to use microcontrollers, breadboards, resistors, sensors, construction materials, gravel, and soil to meet engineering challenges.


On August 6th, each school held an Expo where participants demonstrated their creations and and explained the science behind their designs.  Smart City models included solar and wind-powered energy, water filtration systems, waste disposal and recycling systems, smart traffic systems, and buildings capable of surviving natural disasters.  Autonomous robots equipped with color sensors were able to follow paths or locate objects.


SoSC classroom activities and curriculum, created at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, including instructions and materials needed can be found here.  Robotics classroom activities and curriculum, created at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, including instructions and materials needed can be found here and here.

Participants were able to spend their summer thinking about ways to improve the lives of their families and neighbors using creativity and STEM concepts while gaining a new appreciation for the science and math they learn during the school year.  Thank you Microsoft and The Fund for Public Schools for supporting this partnership to provide access and opportunity for hands-on STEM‬ learning to NYC K-12 students.



Last Friday, the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Science of Smart Cities program culminated with its fourth annual Expo, a demonstration of model smart cities designed and built by the forty-seven middle school participants. Proud family members and teachers were able to view the models while the students explained how their cities incorporate the engineering lessons they had learned in the classroom.

DSC_5375During the previous four weeks, NYU engineering students taught the participants science, technology, engineering, and math content through hands-on curriculum. Designed at NYU SoE, the curriculum focuses on Energy, Urban Infrastructure, Wireless Communications, and Transportation. The participants incorporated what they had learned about engineering aspects of sustainable and resilient cities when designing their own smart city and then taught this back to the Expo attendees.

DSC_5396Speaking in front of a group and answering unexpected questions both take skill, as does explaining complex STEM concepts using plain language. To help the students prepare for the Expo, they received ten hours of training in public speaking, improvisation, and communication skills by members of a theater group, The Irondale Ensemble Project.





The Science of Smart Cities 2015 program was supported through generous funding from National Grid.


IMG_2109Connecting K-12 STEM educators to hands-on science and engineering is part of NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s commitment to increasing the quality of STEM education. Part of these efforts include two National Science Foundation-funded Research Experiences for Teachers programs that provide middle school and high school teachers with research opportunities in NYU engineering labs.

Divided into two tracks, teachers are either accepted to work in the Cyber Security or the Science and Mechatronics Aided Research for Teachers with an Entrepreneurship expeRience (SMARTER) program. Centered around the Information Systems and Internet Security lab in the Computer Science and Engineering department, teachers in the Cyber Security program learn how computer science, forensics, law, and computer programming are leveraged to create more robust digital networks.  Based within the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department, SMARTER participants conduct mechatronics and robotics research while gaining entrepreneurship experience.


Prior to lab work, all teachers receive two weeks of immersive training related to their research program.  They are taught not only the relevant STEM content, but also how to think like an engineer. Marc Frank, in the SMARTER program, noticed that he was encouraged to make mistakes and learn from them, and looks forward to bringing this problem-solving mindset to his classroom.

In addition to learning about new technologies to use in K-12 schools, teachers such as Horace Walcott, also in SMARTER, see RET as an opportunity to develop mentoring skills to help students conducting advanced research in preparation for college. As a Regents Chemistry teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School, he mentors students during a 3-year Weston Research Fellowship.  His ongoing relationship with NYU labs helps connect his students to higher education opportunities and the scientific community at large. “We’re establishing long term relationships and connections with NYU and part of that long term relationship is getting our students to come here and conduct research on a multi-year level.”

20150714_RET_012Russ Holstein, a middle-school computer teacher at IS318 also sees value to linking his students to the NYU academic community. In addition to applying techniques he’s learned in Professor Nasir Memon’s Cyber Security Lab to start a school forensics club, he sees his investment with NYU as having a lasting impact on his students. Through his awareness of STEM programs available at the Engineering School, he “…was able to plug my kids in. Not only does this open doors for them, but they are looking for high schools that offer the same kind of opportunities in STEM.”

Ramona Fittipaldi of The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, also in the SMARTER program, anticipates using her experience building and programming basic circuits in PBasic to start a robotics club. In addition, she plans to encourage more of her female students to enter STEM fields by designing curriculum with an  “…entire engineering component where they can do all these hands on activities like we’re doing to really excite them about STEM and excite them about engineering for their futures.”



At NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering this summer, mechanical engineering graduate students, Matt and Anthony, along with NYU Steinhardt graduate student, Colin, are working with four middle-school math and science teachers as part of the National Science Foundation‘s Discovery Research PreK-12 program (DRK-12) program. DRK-12 teams across the country conduct research on and develop innovative approaches to the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in PreK-12. The NYU SoE DR K-12 project focuses on lowering barriers in STEM disciplines for students through teacher professional development with robotics as the curriculum focus.


Matt and Anthony, who were both embedded in NYC middle school STEM classrooms over the past year, as part of the AMPS/CBSI program, are continuing to work with Professor Vikram Kapila in DRK-12 by presenting lessons they’ve designed that employ robotics as a way to teach math and science concepts. Using the framework of Design-based Research, the teachers are providing feedback to fine-tune the lesson. This process is repeated to co-create project-based STEM learning that successfully incorporates technology.





While the engineering students are serving as technical experts, Colin and his advisor, Professor Catherine Milne of Steinhardt are the pedagogical experts. Since everyone in the room must run through the same robotics lessons that are intended for K-12 students, the teachers, graduate students, and professors are experiencing, first-hand, any glitches or unclear instructions, which are re-worked through Design-Based Research.



The four K-12 teachers are providing expert opinions on how the material might be seen if presented to different grades and any practical limitations or stumbling blocks to implementing the lessons. The lessons can be improved greatly during the summer, with the help of the teachers, before being tried again in classrooms. In addition, through this process, the teachers are gaining not only content and pedagogical knowledge, but also technical knowledge that will allow them to use technology in their classrooms effectively.



Forty-seven NYC middle school students have spent the past two and a half weeks of their summer at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s campus in the Science of Smart Cities (SoSC) program. SoSC introduces students to concepts in science, technology and engineering with a focus on urban planning and sustainability. The curriculum includes hands-on activities surrounding energy, urban infrastructure, transportation systems and wireless communications.

In its fourth year, the curriculum, which has been developed by NYU SoE students, makes abstract science and math concepts more concrete by explaining how they apply to students’ every-day surroundings. The students design their own Smart City for an Expo at the end of the program, along with weekly group problem-solving and engineering projects. The creativity allowed by the program makes an impression on students and has a positive impact on their relationship to STEM subjects. Three interns this year, Aarti, Jaela, and Zipporah, were so drawn by the program as participants last year, they have returned to volunteer.

“I really liked how we could design our own city using what we learned. Although the instructors gave their own input, it was mostly us, so we got to learn while creating. It really gave me a different perspective on science. I used to think of it as something only used by doctors and such, but now I understand how it plays a role in our everyday lives.”  -Aarti

“I liked that we were able to do a lot of different activities, go on trips, and learn a lot about a lot of different things. The year before I came to Science of Smart Cities, I was not that great at math and science. It was just a whole bunch of numbers. Then, I learned a lot more about science…it all makes sense now. I wanted to come back because it was really fun last year, and I want to help the kids have more fun this year.”  -Zipporah

“I liked that it [SoSC] gave kids the opportunities to explore new things. My experience the first year was really fun. I got to meet a lot of new people, try a lot of new things, and I came back this year to teach kids the same thing. SoSC showed me how to have a hard drive, how to work hard towards goals. It also showed me that there’s a real output to the things we learn.”  -Jaela


Vicente, from the Science of Smart Cities pilot year in 2012, and Ayinde, who participated in an after-school version of SoSC through Harlem Educational Activities Fund, have entered the 2015 class of NYU SoE’s high school summer research program, ARISE where they will conduct research in Professor Iskander’s Soil Mechanics Lab. SoSC shaped their views on STEM education and their decision to pursue civil and urban engineering

“SoSC introduced me to the field of STEM, so I was more conscientious about what’s going on in the world regarding STEM… it allowed me to further my STEM education and know more about it.”  -Vicente

“SoSC has helped my future in a lot of ways. It has also shaped the way I look at the planet as a whole. Before I took the course, I was just nonchalant. The course really helped me because we worked with soil mechanics, circuit boards, circuity, all connected into one, so you get a feel or a view into all different paths of science.”  -Ayinde

Science of Smart Cities piloted as a summer program at NYU in the summer of 2012. Since then, the program has been replicated off-campus as an after school program through the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, in Malaysia as Bitara STEM, and now in NYC public schools as part of the NYC Summer STEM program. SoSC is made possible with support from National Grid.