Pepco presents the Payne Elementary School Robotics Club with a $5,000 check on March 30 to pay for their expenses at the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Pepco presents the Payne Elementary School Robotics Club with a $5,000 check on March 30 to pay for their expenses at the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

Thanks to a generous donation from Pepco, the award-winning robotics team at Payne Elementary in Southeast will now have the funds to compete in a national science competition in Louisville.

Pepco presented the team with a $5,000 check on Thursday, March 30, to take care of their travel and lodging expenses and a new robotics kit for the competition.

“Not only do the very talented students work well together creating the robot but they also can explain why robotics is not just fun, but it can change people’s lives such as robotics in the advancement to help the disabled,” said Marc Battle, manager of external affairs for Pepco.

Last fall, the Payne Elementary School Robotics Club won the Excellence Award for the 2017 VEX Worlds – VEX IQ Challenge Elementary School Division. This qualified the students to move to the next round of competition on April 23 in Louisville to compete against elementary schools from around the country.

“Our contribution today is in recognition of their achievements and to help this gifted group of students travel to Louisville for the national competition,” Battle said. “We at Pepco are so proud of these rising STEM stars. Being a good community partner and supporting positive initiatives is apart of our corporate values and our identity.”

Members of the group said they have fun building robots, but get the most joy out of helping their friends.

“Our friend De’Anthony, he has a disabled leg,” fifth-grader Jalen Pope said. “He has trouble picking up his pencil and in PE he has trouble, so the robot helps him. The robot can help other children like him untie their shoes. It helps them with a lot of things.”

Fellow fifth-grader Khaliq Keita concurred.

“When we helped De’Anthony with our robot, a lot of his classmates wanted to participate and that made De’Anthonty happy that people cared about him and wanted to help him with his prosthetic leg,” Khaliq said.

Science teacher and Robotics Club adviser Shanita Henson said the the STEM bug hit Payne Elementary when a parent showed interest in a robotics club and then secured a grant for it.

“We were able to purchase a kit and from there we started building our robot,” Henson said. “It’s definitely a delight to exposure our children to different things such as building machines and robots that can help them in the classroom.”

Henson will travel with the group of nine students to the national competition, where they will compete with kids from all over the world over the course of three days.

In her first year at Payne Elementary, Principal Stephanie Byrd said her focus has been to develop the science and math programs.

“We are a STEM-focused school, so that students leaving Payne are ready to go to middle school prepared to tackle any level of math or science,” Byrd said. “We also want to develop caring students, who care about their environment and each other.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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