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Livingston Robotics Club and Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities Announce “Shining Star” Robotic League: A Pilot First Lego League Program for Children with Special Needs

The Livingston Robotics Club (LRC) and Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities (LACD) have announced the kickoff of a pilot program for the “Shining Star” Robotics League for students with special needs, a collaboration between the non-profit organization, LRC, and the township committee, LACD

One of the LRC’s award-winning FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams, team Landrias, comprised of four rising eighth-grade girls, is available to mentor one or two teams for students with special needs in the Fall of 2011, for two to four hours per week.

“After three years of competing in the FLL, and successfully winning multiple regional Champion’s awards and Robot Design awards at the state level, the all-girls team Landrias has decided to change its mission from one of competition to ‘mentoring,’ which is how the idea of a ‘Shining Star’ Robotics League was conceived,” says Pearl Hwang, President of the LRC.

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The pilot program is limited to ten to 12 children, ages nine to 14. The children will be divided into two teams, based on their ages.  The program is accepting children to join on a first-come-first-serve basis.  There is also an application and interview process that will take into account the commitment level of the parents of the children to assist in the team coaching and team activities.

The dedication on the part of the families is critical. For those parents who volunteer to be one of the two coaches (per team), their children would be guaranteed a spot on the team.  Each child also must be accompanied and assisted by a parent or caregiver at all times. The time commitment is between two to four hours per week, from first week of September to mid-December.

“We are very proud of our young women who are committing themselves to mentoring children in their community through a mutual passion – LEGO robotics,” says Hwang.

The LRC, founded in 2007, began with one living room Livingston team, the Landroids, which was composed of a group of 6thgraders playing with LEGO robots.  The Landroids went on to win multiple national and international awards each year in the science and robotics arena. Landroids’ younger sisters, formed team Landrias in 2008 to follow suit in the regional and state levels, and became the role model of many all-girls FLL teams in NJ.

In 2010, the LRC was formally incorporated as a non-profit subsidiary under the Healthy Community, Healthy Youth Initiative (HCHY).

“With the help of HCHY, the LRC now has a club house and 13 teams throughout NJ with more than 70 children,” says HCHY’s Alan Karpas.   “We believe there are ‘Shining Stars’ in our community who would benefit from the mentoring of team Landrias and committed parents, because as we know, with Livingston’s LRC, anything is possible.”

The “Shining Star” Robotics League follows the success of the “Shining Star” Sports League: A League for Exceptional Children, a program for children with special needs run by the Township of Livingston’s Senior, Youth and Leisure Services (SYLS).   

SYLS’s Jennifer Hessberger (Director), Tim Roetman (Camp, Youth & Teen Programs), and Mark Silance (Adaptive Recreation Coordinator), the creators of the “Shining Star” brand, are delighted to be sharing the concept with the LRC and LACD, in an effort to better serve the children in the community with special needs.

How the “Shining Star” Robotics League will operate: The Township’s Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities (LACD) and LRC have teamed to up to create the program offering children with special needs an opportunity to participate in an international robotics league. The “Shining Star” Robotics League will be run by LACD, with LRC serving as the mentor of the newly-created robotics team(s).

The LACD is very experienced in serving the community of special needs in Livingston. The mission of the LACD is to improve the lives of citizens with disabilities and their families. LACD Co-Chairman Bob Gebroe is thrilled to be collaborating with the LRC in this new and exciting way.

“We are breaking new ground by teaming up with the LRC,” says Gebroe. “We are so pleased to be serving our children with special needs, along with the young women of team Landrias, in such an inspired and innovative manner.”

If your child is interested in being involved in the pilot program of the LRC “Shining Stars” league, please contact Maureen Chase at ShiningStarRoboticsLeague@gmail.com by July 25.

For more information, please visit the LRC website, see “Apply” at: http://livingstonrobotics.org/      

Pearl Hwang of LRC contributed to this story.

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