Robotics Program At H.L. Watkins Middle School Helps Loxahatchee Student Shine

Unlike most kids his age, Quincy Sasson, from Loxahatchee, doesn’t flinch when you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up. “I want to be a petroleum engineer,” he explains.

At 14 years old, Sasson loves robotics, and since sixth grade has been a part of the Howell L. Watkins Middle School robotics program. This fall, he will enter ninth grade at Suncoast High School as part of the school’s math, science and engineering program.

H.L. Watkins’ robotics program offers an opportunity that not many middle school students receive — the chance to gain the creativity, skills and knowledge to become an engineer. But before that, it equips them for acceptance into the highly competitive and nationally recognized Suncoast High School. The program, made possible through a partnership between Florida Power & Light and the school, is a three-year, intensive program that provides a motivating curriculum for students. The program focuses on job-specific skills for the engineering field, teaching students to construct and program robots.

“The program gave me a lot of free time to be creative, use my imagination and work independently,” Sasson said. “I really like building things, and when I had to switch schools, I chose H.L. Watkins because of the robotics program.”

While at H.L. Watkins, Sasson worked with various styles of robotics kits, including VEX and Lego robots that vary in difficulty. Building the robots allows Sasson and his peers to work on programming and create unique attributes and actions for the robots to perform.

Ultimately, the experience gained at H.L. Watkins will give students like Sasson a head start in developing the foundation and understanding of engineering, arming them with tools to better succeed in high school.

Involvement in robotics programs has been proven to help students build leadership and work-related skills in technology and innovation, and has a positive impact on developing students’ interest in STEM subjects, as well as their learning trajectories and outcomes. The educational benefits don’t stop there. Robotics gives students the skills for a future in engineering. Companies like FPL see an opportunity to enhance their workforce pipeline and have made a strong commitment to increase access and funding to STEM programs like the one at H.L. Watkins Middle School to prepare the next generation of engineers.

“STEM programs are just one of the ways that we’re working with the communities we serve to help make Florida an even better place to work and raise a family,” said Thomas Bean, FPL’s director of public and community engagement. “Robotics programs prepare today’s students for exciting and well-paid jobs in the future — and these are the future employees that FPL will need. Students who participate in these programs not only learn engineering skills, but teamwork, collaboration, creativity and other vital experiences to thrive in tomorrow’s competitive work environment.”

While Sasson simply loves robotics, his education not only will prepare him to take on the challenges that high school will bring his way, but also equip him for college and ultimately the workforce. It’s a challenge Sasson seems prepared to take.

“I really love physics and science and want to contribute to society as a petroleum engineer, because it is not something a lot of people can do, and robotics is helping me get ready for that,” he said.

ABOVE: Quincy Sasson