High school students show off engineering feats in NYC robotic catwalk competition

ByLindsay Tuchman WABC logo
Wednesday, January 31, 2024
Students compete in robotic catwalk challenge
Lindsay Tuchman has the story.

MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- A type of science fair competition was held Wednesday at One World Trade, drawing bright young minds from schools in New York and New Jersey. Their goal: to create a robot that will run up and down the catwalks on the side of the Holland and Lincoln tunnels.

Surrounded by the magnificence of New York's unparalleled infrastructure, young innovators showed off their own feats of engineering.

"Being here with this robot on the 102nd floor of World Trade is kind of immense," said Ray Shurdha, a student at the Bronx High School of Science.

Hosted by the Port Authority at the One World Observatory, 20 regional high school student teams competed Wednesday to design a robotic machine to run on the catwalks in the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels.

Maybe you've seen them. They are small paths alongside the tunnel wall that once were used by first responders but have been defunct since 2011 for safety reasons.

"The best way to think about this is to open it up, get some new ideas, get some fresh ideas, and then inspire ourselves to try some of those out," said Port Authority Director of Innovation Seth Wainer.

Jenna Forte and her team from Bergen County Technical High School invented the "Holl-E" robot.

"It can address a variety of issues like vehicle and mechanical issues, such as if a car runs out of gas or if they need any tools, and this will just really make an efficient driving experience and make it safer for everyone involved," Forte said.

For Cailyn McManus of Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School on Staten Island, being a part of the competition was inspiring in many ways.

"I want to be an example to other women that this is something they can do in the STEM field, because it's a very male-dominated field," McManus said.

The winning team members will receive a $750 cash prize for their school's STEM programming, along with the possibility of their design being adopted by the Port Authority.

The winner of that prize was Bergen Tech, the team that developed the Holl-E robot.

The Port Authority plans to hold this contest next year as well, with a different problem needing to be solved to make sure those that will use the city's infrastructure in the future, have a hand in making it run.


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