A group of high school students presenting on robots in front of students with disabilities and others.

It was a fun, creative day of learning at Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center on November 3, 2023 as FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Long Island, Festo US, and students from Mineola High School and J Taylor Finley Middle School in Huntington spent the day demonstrating how robots are made and operate to the Viscardi student body. The primary goal of Viscardi’s first Robotics Demo Day was to enhance the school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum. It was also an opportunity for the Viscardi community to share its knowledge, in an effort to assist companies with developing adapted robotic instruction and products for youth with disabilities.

Two young men with disabilities in wheelchairs building Lego bridges.To kick things off, classes worked together in groups to build creatures and bridges with LEGO® DUPLO brick activity kits. Through this exercise, they discovered the power of creativity, problem-solving and teamwork while using their imagination. The activity provided peer to peer, inclusive learning and the visiting students saw firsthand that students with disabilities have the same interests as them and can participate in the same activities just in a different way.

Four kids standing giving a presentation on robots. In front of them is a table with robots.Following the design activity, Viscardi students saw complex robotics builds the visiting students developed for robotics competitions and tech challenges. The Mineola High School Wild Reds robotics team was excited to introduce everyone to its robot, Ghost, which they primarily constructed from scratch last year for the FIRST Robotics Competition held at Hofstra University. The Mineola student team noted that it strives to spread its passion for STEM in its community and guarantee everyone has a chance to experience it. The demo at Viscardi was a step towards achieving this mission.

Two students with disabilities building Lego bridges.Angelo Zegarelli, Superintendent at Henry Viscardi School, explained that bringing in robotics and computer coding concepts are critical to developing the students and transitioning them not only from grade to grade, but eventually into college and the workforce. These experiences peak student interest in possible career paths in burgeoning fields that people with disabilities can successfully participate in.

Troy Douglas, FIRST Long Island Program Delivery Partner LEGO League Challenge, expressed his passion for robotics and reinforced the importance of STEM, “It’s not about the robots. The robots are a tool to build students and prepare them for the future. When you expand their STEM access, you expand their esteem.”

The Demo Day showed Viscardi students that there are no limits to what they can achieve.

About The Viscardi Center
The Viscardi Center, a network of non-profit organizations based in Albertson, NY, provides a lifespan of services that educate, employ, and empower people with disabilities. Its programs and services include Pre-K through High School education (to age 21), school-to-work transition services, vocational training and job placement, digital accessibility services, entrepreneurship, veteran employment, and workforce diversification assistance to children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and businesses.