Bronx middle school student Katherine Velez is a math whiz who freely admits she isn’t much of a science fan. But after attending a summer program at Fordham that blended the two subjects, she considers herself a convert.


“I wouldn’t say (science) is my favorite, but I learned a lot,” the 11-year-old said, “especially interacting with the robots. It made science fun.”

MS 45 students Luis and Brianne watch Kraig DeMatteis, technical and curriculum developer for Fordham RETC, set up the robotics software. Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Velez was referring to the Lego Robotics MINDSTORMS RCX robot she and about 40 other students from MS 45 Thomas C. Giordano School learned to design, build and program as part of the Advanced Math and Science Institute.

The institute is run by the middle school in conjunction with Fordham’s RETC—Center for Professional Development. It featured six weeks of classroom lessons at the school and hands-on technology training at RETC.

Theresa Lupo, senior professional developer at RETC, designed the institute’s curriculum, and Kraig DeMatteis, the center’s technical and curriculum developer, guided the students through the robotics program.

“We used concepts from math and science to come up with the program for the robots, which—let’s face it—is more fun than just studying math and science,” DeMatteis said. “The students loved it.”

The developers, too, learned there is a lot to love about the world of robotics, Lupo said.

“For example, while developing the curriculum, we found out about RoboTuna, a submarine robot designed to study how underwater vehicles move,” Lupo said. “The (institute) gave the children exposure to things they normally wouldn’t get in their regular curriculum.

“Who knows? We might have inspired future robot scientists right in this room,” she added.

Students presented their finished projects on Aug. 6 at the Flom Auditorium in the William D. Walsh Family Library before an audience of parents and middle school teachers. “Ooohs” and “aaahs” filled the room as the small robots followed their programmed courses.

Neil Aliberti, assistant principal of the Giordano School, was just as wowed by the robots, which were created by some of his top students.

“We wanted to challenge them further and expose them to a wide variety of programs made available through Fordham,” Aliberti said. “We appreciate the University’s outreach to us because it allows us to expose our students to top educational resources.”

“The kids have enjoyed themselves tremendously and the proof is in their final presentations,” he said.


Gina Vergel is Senior Director of Communications. She oversees the digital news coverage, public relations, and social media for the university. Before joining Fordham in 2007, Gina worked as a reporter for the Home News Tribune, and The Ridgewood News, where she won Society of Professional Journalist (New Jersey chapter) awards for breaking news and feature writing, respectively. She can be reached at [email protected] or (646) 579-9957.