There’s no “I” in robot: CYC’s robotics program teaches teamwork, collaboration, and employable skills


The Crown Commanders, CYC’s first robotics team, had never built a robot before this year.

But with some new coding skills, creative brainstorming sessions, a few late nights, and a whole lot of teamwork, the Crown Commanders entered into the Illinois Regional FIRST Tech Challenge.

FIRST is a national organization that encourages student participation in STEM through robotics competitions. CYC youth used machines in the Maker Lab to create and build robots. In the regional FIRST Tech Challenges, teams of 10 are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to solve a scenario.

The season of seven competitions ran from November to February, and CYC youth competed against more affluent students from the Chicagoland suburbs. CYC’s team placed 26 out of 39 teams, an impressive accomplishment considering this was our youth’s first time working with robotics.

Corey Cambell, CYC robotics coach, said, “Robotics is more than just coding and engineering; it is a way for students to connect and build with each other while doing something outside their comfort zone.”

This program and additional STEM programs at CYC-Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center (CYC-Crown) were made possible through the support of ArcelorMittal, a steel and mining company. ArcelorMittal granted Chicago Youth Centers $15,000 last year to help offer a robust and comprehensive STEM curricula to 125 youth at CYC-Crown, located in Chicago’s South Shore community.

“ArcelorMittal is proud to support Chicago Youth Centers and the Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center Maker Lab. The Maker Lab equips students with new STEM skills and experiences that we believe will inspire them to be the scientists and engineers of tomorrow,” said Marcy Twete, Division Manager, Corporate Responsibility, ArcelorMittal Americas.

CYC found that of the youth involved in STEM programs at Crown:

  • 83% demonstrated increased knowledge of STEM subjects
  • 78% demonstrated increased positive attitudes about STEM fields and STEM career paths
  • 86% demonstrated increased critical thinking skills
  • 81% demonstrated increased communication skills
  •  100% of students in the program increased or maintained their grades in CPS core subjects (including math and science)

Overall, students demonstrated increased knowledge and positive attitudes about STEM subjects, and expanded their employable skills.

Take Chris* for instance.

The nine-year-old, who has faced several obstacles in his young life, has Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD. After experiencing bullying at a different after school program, Chris’s mother discovered CYC through his school.

As someone who enjoys math and science, Chris was able to find a safe place through CYC’s Maker Lab Program and quickly become involved with everything in STEM, including the young robotics club.

Recently, Chris completed a project he had been working on for several weeks: he designed and built his own robot with movable wheels, after discovering how to connect the motor to the wheels. "It was exciting and exhilerating!" Chris said.

CYC has increased Chris’ knowledge and engagement in STEM fields, while also giving him and his mother the support they need to address their unique needs. Chris is refining his STEM skills and gaining experience with technology while developing his people skills and his confidence in communicating.

In addition to ArcelorMittal, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Best Buy, and the FIRST Robotics Competition have supported the robotics program at CYC-Crown. CYC is grateful for their efforts in helping to create a clear vision for students passionate about STEM and contributing to CYC’s mission to be the place where possibility lives.

*Name changed to protect privacy