Next gen builders
Union City kids receive awards for STEM program creations
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Aug 20, 2017 | 4602 views | 0 0 comments | 65 65 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Makeshift pinball machines the students created during the program.
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At just 11 years old, Treston Torres, a participant in the summer program of Union City S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), has the makings of a future tech executive.

“At home, I go to my friends and I'm like, 'Why do you play so much video games?' In school, we actually design them,'” Torres said from the Colin Powell School auditorium July 21, at the district's S.T.E.M awards ceremony.

Torres was demonstrating the coding application he and other classmates used to control Max, a robot with a xylophone attached to his stomach. “Kids nowadays, they don't want to invent stuff,” Torres mused. “They just want to sit and play on the invented stuff. But eventually that stuff's going to run out if we don't learn how to use it.”

Students throughout the district earned awards for their creative efforts, laid throughout the gym. Using S.T.E.M, they created makeshift pinball machines, robotics, and even their own video games during the four-week program.

“This is a way for the school district to introduce the ideas of S.T.E.M to our students,” explained Marcos Navas, a technology facilitator for the district who organized the program, before the awards were handed out. “But more importantly, take some of our kids and give them even further tools to run with – our bright minds of the district.”


“This is a way for the school district to introduce the ideas of S.T.E.M to our students.” -- Marcos Navas


One of those bright minds shared her Ozobots – small robots that follow color patterns – at a nearby table.

“They're small robots with special markers; you can write code for them that correspond to the color codes you write on paper,” Adriana, 10, explained. “It was fun to program them and code them, because the only coding I've ever done before was computer coding.”

About the program, she added, “What I enjoy about the program is I get to learn new things about S.T.E.M. I've been in another S.T.E.M program before, but back in that program, we only did robotics.”

“Words cannot describe how proud and admirable these kids have been throughout these four weeks,” Navas told the crowd at the start of the awards ceremony. “We've had a very rigorous program, but the students showed up every day, wanting more, wanting to learn more, and it was sometimes hard for them to leave because they didn't want to leave. That speaks volumes of what was going on at S.T.E.M. Camp.”

Though every student camper received a participation award, the district also handed out excellence awards to one boy and one girl in each of the three S.T.E.M. classes who went above and beyond their duties.

According to Navas, Apple ran coding programs and classes in the district with students, to expose them to a higher level of S.T.E.M. The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City also ran workshops with kids in the program, and brought in animals for the students to work with.

“On behalf of our mayor and the Union City Board of Education, we want to thank the parents for letting their children partake in this wonderful camp,” said Superintendent of Schools Silvia Abbato. “Every year just gets better and better. We have plans for the students to spend a week at the Stevens Institute of Technology [in Hoboken], because we're forging a partnership with Stevens.”

Hannington Dia can be reached at

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