Helping students soar in robotics

Published 9:31 pm Thursday, July 18, 2019

Students at Col. Fred Cherry Middle School are developing their creative problem-solving skills and exploring future careers in STEM through club competitions, and a fundraiser is accepting donations to allow these students to keep competing this upcoming school year.

The CYBER — Cherry Youth in Basic Engineering and Robotics — Hawks STEM Club inspires students to work together and face robotics and engineering challenges as a team, and the club has already made impressive strides since the new middle school opened last school year. The club had the winning middle school sea team in the annual Sea, Air and Land Challenge held at Col. Fred Cherry Middle School in May, for instance.

Seventh-grade science teacher and club sponsor Leslie Bulger said several of her club students were with her in the former robotics club at John Yeates Middle School, before they and other students were transferred to Col. Fred Cherry Middle School.

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She’s seen students she’s had for years graduate eighth grade as outstanding problem solvers, largely through trial and error in competitions like the SeAL Challenge.

These competitions encourage students to work with others and tackle different scenarios under a time crunch. It’s these experiences that pave the way for future success in high school and beyond.

“I would probably say 75 percent of my eighth-graders have gone into Project Lead the Way in high school,” Bulger said. “It’s definitely a good ‘get your feet wet’ (opportunity) if you have any interest in being an engineer.”

The CYBER Hawks also compete in the FIRST Lego League events. This international competition is organized by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, an international youth organization that operates robotics and technology competitions.

According to, the program is built around theme-based challenges that engage children ages 9 to 16 in research, problem solving, coding and engineering. FIRST Lego League introduces a real-world, scientific challenge every August for teams to focus and research on for forthcoming competitions.

“Students emerge more confident, excited and equipped with the skills they need in a changing workforce,” according to

But the CYBER Hawks need fundraising assistance to help cover expenses for upcoming FIRST Lego competitions.

The Friends of Col. Fred V. Cherry organization has set up a GoFundMe page to fundraise and cover all costs associated with the CYBER Hawks. This includes team supplies, field trips, entry fees and other competition requirements.

The Friends of Col. Fred V. Cherry was formed in 2018 to preserve the legacy of Cherry — a Suffolk native and former prisoner of war in Vietnam — to promote love for learning and the sciences, and to provide a forum where diverse audiences can actively participate in cultural and academic experiences, according to the GoFundMe page.

“The Col. Fred Cherry Middle School CYBER Hawks STEM Club … provides opportunities for middle school students to have access to programming and resources that (raise) their interests in science and technology at an early age,” the GoFundMe page reads.

The GoFundMe page was created on July 3 and has raised $100 towards its $5,000 goal as of Thursday evening. Visit to make a donation.