Perkins Middle School robotics team puts Brownsville and TSC 21st Century program on the map

Every day during this school year, the Robotics Team at Perkins Middle School in Brownsville met virtually to prepare for the 2021 First Tech Challenge robotics competition, where they won first place for their district and brought home the Collins Aerospace Innovate Award.

The middle school robotics team is part of the Texas Southmost College Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center housed at Perkins. The team was created three years ago and has seen success that led to this year’s win.

“I knew we had the perfect team this year to achieve this win,” said Julio Ledezma, Perkins Middle School College and Career Readiness and 21st Century Robotics and Coding teacher. “We had a combination of experienced eighth graders and a group of seventh and sixth graders who were all willing to work together despite the challenges we faced with COVID to make this possible.”

TSC’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers, in partnership with the Brownsville Independent School District and funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is a five-year grant program that supports the creation of community learning centers in local high schools. These centers provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for students, particularly those who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.

To date, TSC’s 10 Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers have served more than 15,000 Brownsville middle and high school students.

One of those experienced eighth graders is Tianna Resendez, who also served as the team’s captain.

She joined the 21st Century Robotics program in sixth grade and since then has been practicing her programming and robotic three-dimensional designing and printing skills to lead the team in perfecting this year’s rover.

“At times, the process has been overwhelming, especially because most of our work was done virtually,” she said. “But my goal as captain was not only to win, but make it fun, and I think that helped us relax and get the job done. I couldn’t have been happier when I realized we were able to beat not only other middle schools, but also high schools.”

For Resendez and her team this was a huge accomplishment.

Since Resendez is the captain, she is the student who took the lead on presenting her team’s rover processes, design and functions to a group of judges, who awarded the team the Collins Aerospace Innovate Award for their ability to arrive at their design solution through ingenuity, creativity and inventiveness.

Ledezma said it took a lot of time and dedication to arrive at the solutions his robotics team did.

“I was basically their hands since we weren’t allowed at school together,” he said. “They fed me their programming and I inputted functions to ensure everything worked the way it should for competition. It wasn’t easy, but my students persevered and overcame every obstacle that they faced. I am so proud of every one of them.”

The first-place team included Resendez, Nia Ledezma, Bryan Gonzalez, Jazilyn Martinez and Federico Ramos.

Resendez said without TSC’s 21st Century program, an opportunity for students like her would not be possible, and Ledezma agrees.

“TSC’s 21st Century programming on our campus and our on-site coordinator Fidel Gonzalez have been a great asset to Perkins,” he said. “It has allowed me to see students like Tianna break out of their shells, gain leadership skills and grow as students and people. It’s made a big difference and we can see how our students have flourished.”

Ledezma added that this team set a precedent for other teams coming behind them and he knows they will continue to put Brownsville on the map.

Students interested in this program should talk to their middle or high school counselors.