Engineering a change in the classroom

Yvon Morin addressed his students at It Takes A Village Academy and told them the task at hand: design a robot that would pick up a ball and toss it into a goal.

They stared back incredulously.

The high school in East Flatbush, which opened in 2007 with a 9th grade and is growing by a grade per year, is largely made up of Haitian immigrants who are learning English.

“They didn’t think it was feasible,” he said.

But a fellow at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University worked with Morin to design and conduct classes. His students created a robot. Then, they pitted it against other schools at a national competition.

“The largest barrier my students face is English, but they’re good at using their hands. This was a good experience for them,” said Morin. “They were sad when it was over.”

Morin’s students were part of a National Science Foundation-funded program that pairs up doctoral engineering fellows at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in classrooms with teachers in Central Brooklyn.

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