It was six months ago that the faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) educational facility Race Hub opened in Syosset, marking the grand opening in March with local officials like Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino and Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker appearing for the ribbon cutting.
“It’s been amazing,” Race Hub co-founder Manish Bahl said. “We’ve had a lot of good feedback from the parents who are local here and we have a lot of parents coming back and kids are calling it build day. It’s their build day when they come in and they enjoy coming here. The parents themselves are wowed when they bring their kids here and there’s nothing like it that they’ve experienced before.”
The robotics program at Race Hub is one where students can actually touch and feel the robots, and where they can ask the instructors any questions they want.
And already, Race Hub’s robotics program has become so popular that they are starting a robot league where different teams within the league will compete. The league has been around for five months, and the facility is designed to house small robotics teams made up of different age groups from ages 8 to 13.
“Robotics is actually a key part of what we do here,” Bahl said. “Initially, the last couple years, we were doing robotics for children through the libraries, through the community centers… There was a lot of interest. And we wanted to bring robotics to a younger audience. That really drove us into what we were passionate about.”
“Traditionally, children can get turned off by robotics,” Bahl said, adding that children often feel intimated when starting out. “There’s always that ‘wow’ factor and they’ll say it’s cool. But then, one thing we do different here, is we ask them ‘if you could design a robot, what would it do?’ And the first answer you’ll usually get is, ‘I want it to clean my room’ or ‘I want it to make me a breakfast’ or ‘I want it to go to space.’ The ideas that these children come up with are so natural.”
Bahl said that instead of shutting the children down on what a robot can do, the faculty at Race Hub explore the children’s ideas and their imagination.
The Race Hub facility in Syosset certainly can spark imagination for any child interested in STEAM.
Bahl gave the Syosset Jericho Tribune a virtual tour of the facility on May 24, first showing off the “robotics field,” where the students can set up obstacle courses for their robots.
“One of the things we have here is a special challenge called ‘Trek Across America,’” Bahl said. “We’ll actually have it trek across a bridge. We’ll have it encounter a river. So there’s a lot of interesting challenges.”
But before the students can bring their robot to the “robotics field,” they have to build it first. Race Hub has all the tools the students need to build, with different designs based on the age of the students.
“At this facility, they can not only work with the robotics, but also understand other engineering kind of components, like motors and gears,” Bahl said. “And it’s not just with the robots, it’s the actual technique around it.”
Working with robots, Bahl added, also helps the students develop critical thinking and process a multitude of tasks.
“It’s really understanding the challenges one might encounter and really it comes down to a point of story telling,” Bahl said. “Along the way, we’ll notice that they’ll make mistakes. From those mistakes, they’ll really have a new thought process. And each one of them, in a team environment, will think differently.”
In those teams, each student will have a different role; from navigator, to driver, to a mechanic. They will each use the skills they develop to work on their goals together.
And not only does the robotics programs teach the students skills like critical thinking, it can help prepare them for a future where artificial intelligence and robots will become more integrated into everyday life.
“We talk about the different kinds of robots,” Bahl said. “Certainly there are land-based robots, underwater robots and micro-robots, just as the types that exist… All of that ties back to the engineering method,”
Visit www.racehubusa.com to learn more about Race Hub, its programs and its STEAM’n Summer Camp program.