Amazon donates $15K to Polytech robotics program


WOODSIDE — As the world is veering farther away from manual labor and to a workforce largely dependent on complex robotic technology, numerous companies are utilizing their resources to assist technology and engineering  programs across the nation.

Amazon furthered its efforts in that campaign last week with a second donation to Polytech High School’s robotics program, bringing the company’s investment to help students explore STEM-related careers  to $15,000.

Since Polytech became partners with Amazon last summer, the company is largely offering financial support in order for students to become familiar with the skills and assets necessary to participate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) related occupations.

“A lot of the jobs of the future are going to be heavily dependent on science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Rohan Mendonza, general manager of the Amazon Middletown facility. “So this [Polytech’s robotics program] is a great way for us to delve up the next generation of innovators starting right at the high school level.”

The company donated $7,500 to the school in October.

Instructor James Bartolomeo is shown on a robotics competition practice field, funded by Amazon, at Polytech High School. (Special to the Delaware State News/Torie Seagraves)

“We partnered with Amazon earlier in the year,” said James Bartolomeo, Polytech electronics instructor. “They provided us with over $7,000. We used that $7,000 to buy the robotics competition field, robotics parts to build the robots, the control systems, the field elements, everything to run an event and have a competitive team.

Olivia Graves, right, keeps an eye on the Polytech High School competition robot.

“They came back to us … and turned the original $7,500 into $15,000, so now we have another $7,500 and our plan is to continue to broaden and grow the team.”

As a relatively new program at Polytech, school leaders said the robotics club has experienced major advancements since its establishment in 2014. Starting with a small team of four to five participants, the number has grown nearly sixfold, to an active 30. Additionally, with funding received from Amazon, the robotics club was able to obtain more advanced technologies that were not available to students in prior years.

“We’ve been able to purchase the competition field for VEX and FTX [robot technology], the VEX robotics kits and controllers, the registrations for students at robotics events, and numerous other classroom and competition items,” said Polytech Superintendent Deborah Zych.

Polytech student Jason Mello is among the competition robotics team members.

By acquiring such amenities, Polytech’s robotics program has been able to participate in competitions across the county with a better sense of preparedness.

“We got a practice field this year, and by having that we were more prepared and organized for the competition, since last year we just went in blindly,” explained Sean LeTavish, an active participant of the robotics club.

With Amazon’s initial donation contributing greatly to the robotics program’s recent growth, the program is looking to further develop within the coming months by making use of the additional $7,500.

We plan on becoming “an active component in the county so that we can host events at Polytech and team up with the local middle schools,” said Mr. Bartolomeo, and they anticipate “on buying … storage equipment along with new field elements for next year’s competition.”

In partnership with Amazon, Polytech officials said they hold hope for acquiring resources outside of the financial support that is offered, as well, such as the educational resources that engineers of Amazon have the ability to share with students.

Amazon’s Rohan Mendoroza presents $15,000 to Polytech robotics team member Sean Letavish and instructor James Bartolomeo. Also shown, at right, is Lyndon Yearick.

“We are going to continue to need innovators,” says Mr. Mendonza, and it is with such programs as the Polytech robotics club that breeds that needed innovation.

“The robot revolution is alive and well, from the rumba to self driven cars to warehouses to rovers on Mars, there’s going to be jobs in technology,” said Mr. Bartolomeo.

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