FLEMINGTON, NJ - Brothers Nicholas and Alexander Kmosko and teammate Julian Prieto won the 2019 Impact Award from RoboCupJr USA at the national championships hosted in New York City.
RoboCupJr is a worldwide competition for youth to age 19 that focuses on hands-on creative problem solving. Julian, Alexander and Nicholas compete in the autonomous robotic soccer league where teams design, build and program pairs of robots that compete against other teams from around the country and world. The competition requires the participants to meld mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer systems engineering skills to create their robots with artificial intelligence to compete with other robotic soccer teams.
While the team has won four national and two world robotics championships, team captain Alexander Kmosko, 16, believes this off-the-field honor is their greatest yet.
“Each year because of RoboCup, we spent about a month in Brazil, Germany, China, and Japan and saw the emphasis those countries placed on STEM education,” Alexander said in a press release. “We knew we needed to help others get involved with STEM locally.”
The team reached out to Jim Murray and Dr. Ken Sanchez of the North Hunterdon Rotary to find ways to provide STEM opportunities for local youth. Starting in 2017, the team partnered with Rotary by creating a robotics tournament for middle and high-school students where the winning students received a 3D printer for their school. The tournament was so successful, Rotary continued their partnership adding after-school STEM classes taught by Alexander and Nicholas and hosted at the Harvest Family Success Center.
Alexander created the curriculum based on what he learned from RoboCupJr to be an exciting, hands-on experience.
“Making engineering fun was easy,” said Alexander. “The difficult part was finding the right level of detail for all the students.” Since their youngest brother Philip, age 11, tested all the class material, he was great helping students while older brothers Alexander and Nicholas were teaching the classes.
"It’s been a true community partnership to inspire our next generation of innovators and leaders," said, president of the North Hunterdon Rotary. “We look forward to expanding our STEM youth programs led by the Kmosko brothers."
Several partners and sponsors contributed to the success of the program.
The North Hunterdon Rotary donated many robotics kits for use by the students in the STEM classes as well as the 3D printer awards and volunteers to ensure the STEM tournaments are a success. The North Hunterdon Rotary is part of a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders.
Harvest Family Success Center's mission is to provide a welcoming environment to strengthen and empower individuals and families through family-centered activities, educational workshops, and access to resources needed to maintain healthy relationships. The center's Director Carmel Gettings and Penni Trionfo organized the classes and provided encouragement and oversight throughout the process to ensure everyone's needs were being met.
The Center for Hope Hospice of Scotch Plains donated “pre-loved” laptops for the classes. The Center is a non-profit, community-based organization that provides terminally ill patients with hospice care, and their families or loved ones with physical, emotional, and spiritual support during their time of need.