Congressman Crowley has secured $10,000 in government funding for an educational program that teaches middle school students how to program and build their own robotic machines made of Lego.
Crowley appeared at Town Hall on April 15 to make the announcement alongside Assemblywoman Marge Markey, who founded Town Hall over 30 years ago. Local Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who is a cousin of the congressman, joined them for the press conference.
"This is an intriguing way to get young people interested again in math and science through engineering," said Congressman Crowley, who secured the funding from the federal budget. "We need to prepare our young people for the future. Education is a critical component of that."
Maspeth Town Hall's executive director, Eileen Reilly, said the money will be used to purchase materials and help pay the salaries of the 20 Town Hall staff members who will work on the project.
Reilly said the program, already underway at one location, will eventually expand to at least eight Town Hall-sponsored after-school locations around Maspeth and involve 100 to 150 teenagers.
Some of the successful models already built by the first group to work on the project were on display last week, where young staff members - some of them AmeriCorps volunteers - showed them off.
Shaped like toy cars with rubber wheels, they run on AA batteries and are controlled by computer programs run off laptops.
Jonathan Bayne, 20, a Town Hall staffer, said in building the cars students learn math, science, and computer skills - and actually have fun doing it.
"A lot of middle schoolers are excited about it, they get really into it," said Bayne.
Councilwoman Crowley noted the investment in Town Hall's educational program could not come at a better time. She said the project gives parents another reason to send their children to the free after-school program at a time when paying for extracurricular activities can be difficult.
"This provides a program where kids can come and have a safe place where they can interact with kids their own age," the councilwoman said.
More than just a science project, Reilly said the Lego robotics program allows students to become more involved in their community and stay out of trouble.
"From three to six [o'clock] children are in a safe environment," said Reilly. "They're being taught lessons that they will use for the rest of their lives."