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Pipeline to the Future

Rensselaer programs inspire the next generation to pursue careers in engineering, technology, math, and the sciences.

By Jodi Ackerman Frank

On a recent day during an after-school program at Troy’s Doyle Middle School, two seventh-grade girls cheerfully greeted a visitor, eagerly explaining their newest robotic creation, “the plug,” a nano device used to repair blood vessels.

Of course, the colorful model, made from child-favorite LEGO® plastic bricks along with the toymaker’s sophisticated computer technology, wasn’t small enough to fit inside an actual vein or artery to plug up tissue damage. But the imagination and the students’ ability to grasp the concept behind the nanorobot model, and their determination to build it, constitute the epitome of what Bill Clark has worked to accomplish in his eight years as a technology education teacher at the middle school.

“These two girls took it upon themselves to conduct research via the Internet and come up with what they thought would be a good solution to a medical problem using nanotechnology. I was amazed,” says Clark, who coached the two girls along with six other students as a team for the international LEGO FIRST Nano Quest Challenge. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen.

In early December, after months of preparation and practice, the students joined 23 teams of youngsters ages 9 to 14 from around the Capital Region to compete in the regional competition that took place at Rensselaer’s Darrin Communications Center. The finalists will attend the FIRST LEGO League World Festival at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in April.

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