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Student Robotics Team Named Contest Finalist for Vitamin-Infused Coffee Filter Idea

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the Academy's Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program help the team take their idea to the national finals.

Published May 02, 2012

NEW YORK, May 2, 2012—The New York Academy of Sciences is proud to announce that the robotics team at Good Shepherd Services' MS 45 Beacon Community Center was selected as one of four finalists in the "Wouldn't It Be Cool If... Contest," presented by Time Warner Cable's Connect a Million Minds and FIRST, for the team's idea for vitamin-infused coffee filters.

The members of the robotics team, nicknamed the Bronx Task Force, are all 10 to 12 years old and are part of an afterschool program at Good Shepherd Services' MS 45 Beacon Community Center, for which the Academy provides trained graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to act as mentors in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through its Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program.

"Volunteering as a mentor for the students in the Bronx Task Force was an incredibly rewarding and fun experience. I had the opportunity to share my own STEM-related interests and experience with kids who were eager to learn, passionate about science and math, and motivated to succeed as a team," says Rebecca Lyddon, a neuroscience PhD candidate at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, who served as an Academy afterschool mentor during the 2010 and 2011 school years.

The Bronx Task Force came up with its idea for healthy coffee filters after team members noticed parents and friends drinking large volumes of coffee using standard filters. They postulated that adding multivitamins and antioxidants to coffee filters could infuse the coffee with healthy ingredients. "I got involved in the contest when the kids pitched the coolest idea ever: 'A to Zinc Coffee.' I helped them with the chemistry part of the project, where we researched how coffee and multivitamins can interact with each other at high temperatures and how to maintain the efficacy of multivitamins when mixed with coffee, among other questions," says Ved P. Sharma, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY, and an Academy afterschool mentor. The team presented the idea to a panel of judges in St. Louis, MO, on April 25, with other finalists.

"Bronx Task Force's success is a wonderful example of partnering inspiring mentors with curious, motivated students to build the next generation of engineers and innovators. There is growing demand for mentors to work with FIRST LEGO League teams throughout the city, helping them discover the excitement and fun they can have with science, math, and engineering," says FIRST Regional Director for NYC Patricia Daly.

The Bronx Task Force's recognition has elicited pride from all of the organizations involved in Good Shepherd Services' afterschool program at MS 45, including the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), which provides vital funding for the program. "I am delighted to offer my congratulations to the young people from the Bronx Task Force for their amazing accomplishment," says DYCD Commissioner Jeanne B. Mullgrav. "You are true ambassadors for the City of New York, continuing its tradition as a hub of entrepreneurship and innovation. DYCD is immensely proud to partner with the New York Academy of Sciences to support STEM activities in our programs, and cultivate the enormous potential of afterschool programs to open doors to new opportunities, skills, and career paths for our young people."

Meghan Groome, director of K-12 Education and Science & the City at the Academy, is responsible for running the Academy's Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program, which, to date, has trained more than 320 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to serve as mentors for afterschool programs in New York City and Newark, NJ. More than 5,675 students have benefited from the hands-on activities the mentors use to teach STEM subjects.

Groome is especially proud when kids from New York City have a chance to present their work on a national stage. "Bronx Task Force is a team with all the pieces in place: their robots have style and skills, the research projects are innovative and designed to save the world, and they are great teammates to each other and gracious professionals at competitions. This is a notice to the admissions departments at MIT, CalTech, and Rensselaer: the next generation of engineers is going to amaze you," says Groome.

Interested in learning more about the world of competitive robotics teams? Get a first-hand account of the recent 2nd Annual FIRST LEGO League Robotics Scrimmage, hosted by the Academy and the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences, by listening to a podcast about the event, which brought together 17 middle school robotics teams to compete in various robotics challenges designed to test both their knowledge of STEM subjects and their ability to work in teams.

About NYC Department of Youth and Community Development
The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) was created in 1996 to provide the City of New York with high-quality youth and family programming. Its central task is administering available City, state, and federal funds to effective community-based organizations.

DYCD supports New York City youth and their families by funding a wide range of programs, including afterschool, literacy, youth workforce development, immigrant services, and services for runaway and homeless youth. For more information, visit

About Good Shepherd Services
Good Shepherd Services is a leading youth development, education, and family service agency. We are a recognized leader in the development of innovative service models and high quality programs, as well as the winner of the inaugural 2007 New York Times Company Non-Profit Excellence Award for overall management excellence. Each year, we work with more than 20,000 vulnerable New Yorkers through over 70 programs in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, which include two networks of community-based youth development, education, and family services in Brooklyn and the Bronx; group homes for adolescents; and foster care and adoption services. Please visit us online at

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST ® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, NH, 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. With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $15 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC® ) and FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC®) for high-school students, FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) for 9 to 14-year-olds, (9 to 16-year-olds outside the U.S. and Canada) and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®) for 6 to 9-year-olds. Gracious ProfessionalismTM is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to

About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at

About The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences, in partnership with The Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, Inc., established The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science to create a coordinated effort to support and disseminate nutrition science research. The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science is dedicated to advancing nutrition science research and knowledge, mobilizing communities, and translating this work into the field. The Institute is generating a coordinated network across sectors, disciplines, and geographies that promotes open communication; encourages exchange of information and resources; nurtures the next generation of scientists; and affects community intervention design and public policy changes. Visit us online at