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Little Neck students advance to city wide robotics contest

For a group of students from MS 67 in Little Neck, their love of robots has landed them first place in a borough-wide competition, a chance to compete in an upcoming citywide contest and, perhaps best of all, the opportunity to lend their efforts to finding a cure for HIV/AIDS.

A team of seven eighth-grade students from MS 67, at 51-60 Marathon Pkwy. in Little Neck, built a robot that won top honors in the design category of the contest at Aviation High School in Long Island City Jan. 15 and qualified them to participate in the First Lego League competition this March. For both events, the students had to build a robot that can complete various missions — such as picking up or dropping various objects — and present research they did on HIV/AIDS.

As part of their research, the students — whose team name is the Bionic Bots — created a nanorobot that could be injected into individuals’ veins, which could then feasibly identify the HIV-AIDS virus and begin to attack it so it would not spread.

“So many people have HIV/AIDS, and so much money has been given to find a cure, but they haven’t found one,” said Jung Hur, 14, of Little Neck. “That’s why we wanted to do this. It’s so important to find a cure.”

The eighth-grade students are members of a Lego robotics class at MS 67, in which students learn how to build and program robots as well as conduct various research involving robotics — such as what the students did with HIV/AIDS.

“Many of these students go to specialized high schools after this and pursue professional careers” in fields like robotics or medicine, said the team’s teacher, Ruta Dave. “They do very intricate work.”

Robert Ruzic, 13, of Little Neck, said the robotics research they have done has helped prepare them for work they expect to encounter at schools like Bronx Science, where he hopes to go, or other top-notch science high schools in the city. Justin Guevara, 13, of Douglaston, said it further cemented his wish to go into engineering.

“I’m interested in the medical field, and this project helped me go in-depth with what I want to study: HIV/AIDS,” Hur said.

Guevara said he was especially inspired by the HIV/AIDS research.

“It’s about coming together and helping the community,” Guevara said. “It’s not just a hobby. It’s about a pathway to a career. It’s about building a better future.”

Jason Nieh, 13, of Little Neck, and Thomas Leung, 13, also of Little Neck, said they enjoyed working with their team members.

“It’s really fun to have the robot do the missions,” Nieh said.

The students will travel to the Javits Center in Manhattan for the citywide robotics competition March 13.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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