MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — The Mercy High School Tech Tigers are turning their robotics skills and community outreach spirit into energy supporting first responders during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since schools were closed and students were moved to online-only learning last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the all-girls, competitive robotics team with FIRST Robotics at Mercy High School in Middletown has adapted their teamwork efforts.
Team mentor and former member, Sarah Bachenheimer (Mercy High School class of 2010) told News 8, due to the virus all of their competitions for the season after early March were canceled.
The team went to their first competition of the season on International Women’s Day in the first week of March, ranked high, and won the Chairman’s Award – an award for team outreach and charitable activities. Bachenheimer says, the team spends a lot of time during the school year volunteering for organizations that support girls in STEM.
In several past years, the team has been eligible to go all the way to the international robotics champions.
Bachenheimer said, winning the Chairman’s Award – the highest honor at a FIRST Robotics Competition event – qualified New England’s only all-girls robotics team to go to the District Championship where they would have competed to go to the World Championships for 2020. But, all those competitions, unfortunately, have been canceled due to the virus.
Bachenheimer says the girls were disappointed, but they decided to see what they could do to help with all of their new free time.
Tech Tiger COVID-19-Related Charitable Activities:
Making Fabric Masks:
Members of the team with sewing machines at home started creating fabric masks a couple of weeks ago to donate to local hospitals and essential workers in their area.
The masks intentionally include fabrics with bright colors and comic book characters to bring a smile to the receiver’s face.
Bachenheimer reports the team has made more than 150 fabric masks and they are in the process of making more.
WEB EXTRA: Time lapse of Tech Tigers mentor, Sarah Bachenheimer, sewing face masks for essential workers
3D Printing Face Shields:
The team used their 3D printer to make plastic face shields and mask tension-relieving bands for essential workers and hospital employees.
WEB EXTRA: Mercy Tech Tigers 3D print face shields for essential workers and hospital staff
The team learned through a former member and current nurse at Middlesex Hospital that the 3rd shift at the hospital wasn’t getting the same donations of food that other shifts were receiving during the pandemic.
The Tigers decided to help out. They began delivering donated pizzas to the third shift ER employees at Middlesex Hospital. Bachenheimer says the girls have been trying to do this twice a week, and have no plans to stop.
WEB EXTRA: Mercy Tech Tigers member Kaelin DaSilva delivers pizza to the ER third shift staff at Middlesex Hospital – April 09, 2020
The team, who usually executes thousands of volunteer hours a year, is still looking for more ways to help. Bachenheimer says they have been hosting weekly digital meetings to stay connected and to organize their donations.