At Robbinsville High School, the FIRST Robotics Team 2590 Nemesis aims to transform lives one child and one community at a time.

ITIAH Angels For Learning (IAFL) is proud to have Nemesis as a key partner in its local and global outreach efforts to transform lives through the power of STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics).  Although COVID-19 has changed the structure of Nemesis’ activities with the emergence of virtual learning, the team’s mission — to use STEM skills to impact the world — remains the same.

This academic year’s activities launched with recruiting new team members, adapting to COVID-19 regulations, and updating technical skills. Upcoming activities include training new team members, participating in community outreach, and preparing for new competitions.

“Despite facing a pandemic and the reduction of our season’s activities, it is truly amazing how team members, students and mentors are still coming together virtually and preparing for the team’s future,” says Swetha Ramachandran, Nemesis 2590 Finance Lead and IAFL volunteer.

Since 2008, Nemesis team members have hosted Discovery and Engineering Days at the high school, introducing over 1,000 local children to STEM. They have also exhibited their technical and presentation skills in local, regional, and world competitions. In 2013, several team members presented their projects and competition robot at the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists (NYSCC) Technology Transfer Conference.  Team members also presented at the NYSCC Suppliers‘ Day and the National SCC Technology Symposium.

The next step — sharing their love of STEM with children in underserved countries in the Americas, Caribbean and Africa — was a natural progression.  When IAFL volunteers take mission trips to teach women how to become self-sustaining entrepreneurs by learning basic cosmetic principles, Nemesis supports the mission by creating STEM workshops for children.

The international component is a collaborative effort, spearheaded by IAFL volunteer Jolia Thadal, a Nemesis alumna and now a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). This effort draws upon the expertise of Nemesis alumni and team members.  Activities have included hosting a camp last winter entitled, Discover Engineering: Let’s Build and Be Creative!,” which introduced children at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to engineering principles.  Prior to the trip, team members sent supplies and a bilingual video with instructions and materials for creating a Scribble Bot, a simple DIY craft robot that can make fun, abstract drawings.  This activity served as an inspirational learning experience for the children. Team members also led a LEGOs drive, collecting 162.5 lbs. of LEGOs for the children to creatively engage in robotics projects.

“It was truly inspiring to see pictures of the children enjoying the LEGOs that the team worked so hard to collect,” recalls Pravallika Palwai, Nemesis 2590 Logistics Manager.

In Portobelo, Panama last winter, Thadal traveled on behalf of the team to Panama to work with the Center for Panamanian Women (CEMP) to introduce STEM concepts to children.  A trip to the village of Kisii in Western Kenya is in the planning stages. IAFL volunteer Lilian Kerongo, a senior scientist at Burt’s Bees, will lead the trip.

“Sharing our passion of STEM education can spur a love of innovation that can help make the world a more efficient and connected place,” says Thadal.

By Swetha Ramachandran and Brenda Payne Whiteman

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