top of page

Murrow High School Robotics Tackles STEM’s Lack of Diversity

HOST INTRO: Silicon Valley may be growing, but its diversity isn’t. A new study from the Government Accountability Office shows only 33 percent of tech employees are people of color. But one Brooklyn high school robotics program has encouraged more students of color to join the world of gears and gadgets. Jennifer Nguyen (WIN) reports. (0:17)

((SOUND: Students talking about building parts while working on robot)

NGUYEN 1: Most high schoolers’ Saturday hangout spot is the mall or movie theater. But Edward R. Murrow High School’s robotics team prefers to spend its time in a science lab. Class isn’t actually in session: the students traded in their pencils for power tools.

They’re handling drills. (0:16)

((SOUND: Student drilling hole into robot arm (0:03)

Hammers. (0:01)

((SOUND: Student hammering metal plate (0:02)

And saws. (0:01)

((SOUND: Student sawing down a small, plastic beam (0:02)

They’re part of Sharkbytes, the school’s robotics team, participating in a scrimmage for an upcoming competition called First Tech Challenge. Murrow High’s known as an arts school. It’s also the most racially diverse public school in the city – and the team reflects that. The students want to prove they can do more than just theater. They want to break into tech. (0:20)


We might be underfunded, but we actually do have the skill to build the robot that will be used in regionals. (0:07)

NGUYEN 2: That’s Kenneth Pacheco, a senior who joined the team after a concussion left him out of the wrestling team two years ago. Lack of STEM funding’s one of the reasons why students of color, especially in under-resourced neighborhoods, don’t consider pursuing the sciences. Sharkbytes team leader Ebonie Reavis is happy that Murrow High’s now getting STEM grants. (0:20)


If you go into a place and you know, there’s a bunch of people that are maybe are not like you, and you know, or not really talking to you, you wouldn’t want to stay there. (0:09)

NGUYEN 3: Reavis is African-American. But she’s also a girl. And girls haven’t had it easy in STEM. She didn’t get into science until two summers ago because she wasn’t sure if it was for her, just like some other girls at school. (0:12)


They look in there and they’re like a little intimidated like “oh man, there’s like a lot, there’s some boys in here.” (0:05)

NGUYEN 4: But before long she found her groove. Gabrielle Martinez is also pretty new to science, and she wants to be an example for aspiring Latina scientists. (0:08)


In history, girls were always like held back in like the science department, and in a lot of other departments ‘cause guys were always given the upper hand, like “they’re better, they’re smarter…” (laughs) (0:12)

NGUYEN 5: Robotics advisor Daniella Dilacqua-Noel has noticed the kids improving in their science classes ever since the Sharkbytes were created three years ago. (0:08)


They’ve taken AP classes, they’ve learned coding. It really is a situation where they want to do something and they don’t know how to do it, so they learn. (0:08)

NGUYEN 6: That led Assistant Principal Carlos Reyes to expand the science department with more classes to keep up with demand. (0:07)


The interest in terms of engineering, we now have three classes, we started with one. We’re also going to start a second class of coding. So the interest is there, okay, and we’re hoping to build this up. (0:13)

NGUYEN 7: And Pacheco hopes to one day get a job in STEM. (0:03)


We’re in a new age of technology. And there’s not that many engineers around, so it’s a new age for people to learn. (0:06)

NGUYEN 8: Murrow High hopes the recent STEM expansion will lead to more graduates pursuing STEM in college and beyond. But for the Sharkbytes, its goal this year is simple: Make it to regionals.

Jennifer Nguyen, Columbia Radio News. (0:14)


bottom of page