DANBURY — once Ellen VanDyke Bell’s AI groups see their competition troubled, they run over to assist. That kind of fairness — or “coopertition” and “gracious professionalism” because the AI league calls it — is instilled within the participants. Judges raise students regarding the team’s community service and fundraisers, not simply their robots.

“A huge a part of the competition is that the cooperative nature,” aforesaid Kay Ellen Bell, a 17-year-old senior at Henry Abbott Technical highschool United Nations agency has participated in AI since fourth grade and captained groups.

Her mom, Ellen VanDyke Bell coaches ten AI groups with students in preschool through twelfth grade from throughout the Danbury space. Her groups have competed at the world level, with one team being named world champions in 2019.

Ellen VanDyke Bell was named coach of the year in the geographic region this year, whereas her girl was named among the highest ten AI players within the world, earning the Dean’s List award named for the league’s founder. Her son was a replacement England rival for the award.

She recruits students United Nations agency square measure generally underrepresented in AI, like women, minorities, and “differently-abled” students to administer them access to science, technology, engineering, and maths, or STEM.

Danbury AI competes within the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, program. groups square measure uneven by age and grade, with oldest groups known as initial school Challenge, for grades seven through twelve, and initial AI Competition, for grades 9 through twelve.

They have boys, women, and every one gender group. Ellen VanDyke Bell aforesaid she started the all-girl team when hearing a boy say that women couldn’t do AI.

“It’s the simplest way to empower women,” she said.

She started work in 2011 when her son aforesaid he wished to be homeschooled. She took him to an AI event in Wolcott, saw his excitement, and determined to make a neighborhood program. Her son is currently nineteen and attends Worcester tech, learning engineering science. He mentors the team.

In addition to Ellen VanDyke Bell, there are adult assistant coaches and varied adult mentors, however, students hold varied leadership roles in safety, business, engineering, marketing, community service and stretch, and strategic advancement and enlisting. Older students mentor younger students.

“I very attempt to have the youngsters run the team,” she said.

Prior to COVID-19, the team partnered with Danbury Library to supply a free AI land site for teenagers. In 2019, one hundred fifteen kids participated.

The teams’ sponsors embody Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky, an independent agency, and ENS Microwave, LLC, which permits them to use its building on Commerce Drive in Danbury. Before COVID-19, they met out of Brookfield highschool.

The goal is to not charge students. However, equipment, travel, and registration fees — $5,000 for one amongst the groups — create the program overpriced, therefore the students hold fundraisers oftentimes. they have $100,000 for the highest-level team if they create it to the planet championships.

“With this explicit competition the budget is admittedly insane, however it’s real-life expertise for these children,” Ellen VanDyke Bell aforesaid.

Her girl aforesaid she has learned speaking, confidence, a way to conduct herself at a contest, and the way to stay calm struggling.

Ellen VanDyke Bell hopes to boost cash to buy a Glowforge electrostatic printer and Ultimaker 3D Printer in order that they might create components for the robots. therewith instrumentation, she envisions making prosthetic arms and hands for kids through the e-NABLE online movement.


COVID prevented Ellen VanDyke Bell from providing groups for younger grades this year as a result of kids beneath twelve who couldn’t be immunized till recently.

But the primary AI Competition team, abbreviated FRC, plans to induce started on a replacement golem as presently because the latest challenge is free worldwide on the Gregorian calendar month. 8. the primary school Challenge’s task was free in Sept, therefore the goal is to induce a golem along quickly before the competition begins in January and Feb. They contend in Connecticut thanks to COVID.

Strategy comes initial, then building and programming. changes could also be created between competitions.

“Brainstorming ne’er ends,” Kay Ellen Bell aforesaid.

Students work along to make robots and so participate in three-day-long competitions wherever their device is in place during a “field” with alternative teams’ robots for two 1/2 minutes. The group square measure split in to two 2 teams and earn points that supported the actual challenge.

The Danbury being is that the goat and their catchword is “strive to be the G.O.A.T.” or greatest of all time.

At competitions, the team contains a “safety board” to stay track of wherever most are. They designate an area for college kids to travel for psychological state breaks if required.

“We became an enormous family, and that we all care regarding one another,” Ellen VanDyke Bell aforesaid.

The Danbury FRC team won world championships and “rookie of the year” with its golem, Little Mac, named when the boxer from a Nintendo game, that has inexperienced boxing gloves and inexperienced wheels.

Since it had been their novice year, the scholars created a smaller, however a lot of agile golems, Kay Ellen Bell aforesaid.

“Our main strategy was OK, you recognize what let’s attempt to create a functioning golem that a minimum of works,” she said. “That’s why it’s little and quick.”

Kay Ellen Bell recalled her fourth-grade classmates once didn’t believe that she and another woman advanced to the state AI competition. They brought their golem into the category, and he or she aforesaid she saw their eyes illuminate.

“Kay has been terribly instrumental at being a job model for alternative young ladies in STEM,” her mother aforesaid.

Ellen VanDyke Bell, United Nations agency is Black, aforesaid her son was once told by another Black child that Black folks play basketball and soccer, not AI. Her answer was “we will try this, too.”

“We’re attempting to vary that perception,” she said.


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