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March 1, 2005



New York, March 1, 2005 - “Erk” stands a shade under five feet and can effortlessly lift loads of up to ten pounds as high as eight feet. He can also swivel and move forward and backward under his own power.

Erk is a robot built and christened by 25 of the best and brightest engineering minds from two City College of New York-affiliated high schools.  The team will enter him in an international robotics competition next month.

For six weeks, the students from A. Philip Randolph High School and the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at The City College, both located on the CCNY Campus in Harlem, have been preparing for the prestigious FIRST Robotics Competition under the supervision of high school and CCNY mentors.

The latter includes seniors Karen Hernandez and Alfredo Montoya, from the Latin American Engineering Student Association chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (LAESA-SHPE)   

“The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams and their mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week time frame using a standard ‘kit of parts’ and a common set of rules,” said Dencil Nunez, president of LAESA-SHPE.

Teams design, assemble and test a robot capable of performing a specified task in a series of competitions designed by Dean Kamen and Dr. Woodie Flowers, a national advisor to the robotics competition since its inception.  Mr. Kamen, who founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), is the inventor of the Segway Human Transporter.    

In Erk’s case, the CCNY team will have to get the 114-pound battery powered, remote-controlled aluminum robot, which has six small wheels, air-controlled pneumatics and a scissor-lift mechanism, to hoist a pyramid-shaped frame several feet into the air and place it onto a larger frame.

The first test for Erk will come in the FIRST New York City Regional Competition from March 24-26, 2005, at Riverbank State Park on the upper Westside. Over 30 teams will participate in this qualifying event for the FIRST Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, April 21-23, 2005.   

 “The teams are rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, as well as ability to overcome obstacles,” said Ms. Nunez, a senior majoring in Electrical Engineering.

The budding engineers from A.P. Randolph and City College High range from freshmen to seniors. This will be their debut in the robotics competition and it follows the establishment of a partnership between LAESA-SHPE and FIRST.

Ms. Nunez said LAESA is proud to have assumed a mentoring role with A.P. Randolph and the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at CCNY.

She thanked American Express and FIRST (courtesy of a grant from Underwriters Laboratories) for sponsoring the CCNY contingent.

Ms. Nunez also lauded Dr. Joseph Barba, Acting Dean of CCNY’s School of Engineering (SOE) and LAESA’s faculty advisor, and Electrical Engineering Professor John Xiao for their support.  Prof. Xiao directs the Robotics and Intelligent Systems Lab, a research facility in the SOE that has been used by LAESA members.  

Dr. Barba commended LAESA for supporting the development of a new generation of future engineers, and possibly future CCNY students, from mostly underrepresented groups.

“LAESA’s mentoring work is an extension of City College’s commitment to serving and sharing its resources with the community,” he said.   


In 1984, a group of concerned students formed the Latin American Engineering Student Association (LAESA) at City College. Their goals included uniting all Latino students, attaining educational values leading to academic enrichment, and becoming role models for Hispanic youth. In 1986, LAESA joined forces with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), which was founded in 1974 by a group of engineers working for the city of Los Angeles. LAESA-SHPE provides assistance and guidance to Latino engineering students from high school through college and beyond.  


FIRST is a non-profit international organization founded in 1989 whose mission stresses the importance of partnerships with businesses, educational institutions and government in order to strengthen the common objective of expanding access to engineering opportunities for youths.

FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. FIRST inspires in young people, their schools and communities an appreciation of science and technology, and how mastering these can enrich the lives of all.

About The City College of New York

For 158 years, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality affordable education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines.  Over 12,200 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Science, the School of Education, the School of Architecture, the School of Engineering, and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.