Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative

Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative is a collaboration with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District that provides high school students with the curriculum, mentorship and resources to participate in FIRST Robotics competitions. Working directly with expert mentors and coaches, students in this team-based initiative work collaboratively to build and program innovative industrial robots. Robotics programming provides students with hands-on engineering, coding and design experience while honing critical soft skills, such as communications, teamwork and leadership.

As part of the Science Center Robotics Initiative, the Science Center is host to the Curiosity Open: Robotics Challenge, an off-season FIRST Robotics Competition for high school students from Northeast Ohio and surrounding regions.

Rockwell Automation Robotics Room

The Rockwell Automation Robotics Room is the workspace for the four high school robotics teams sponsored by the Science Center through Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative. The Robotics Room is designed for robotics design, fabrication and programming. It provides build space for each team and includes individual work stations, upgraded manufacturing equipment and power tools including a variable speed lathe, gear drive milling machine, 3-D printers, and locked storage carts for teams to use when transporting materials to competitions, as well as building areas and seating. The generous investment in the robotics room by Rockwell is part of the company’s larger vision to give back to students through its national giving relationship and investment strategy with FIRST. The four initial teams that will benefit from the new Robotics Room are comprised of traditionally underserved and underrepresented students and the program increases equity and access for Cleveland’s youth to participate in the FIRST Robotics competition without financial barriers.

Prosthetic Hand Community Service Project

Student representatives participating in the Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative are not only building industrial-sized robots to compete in an international engineering design robotics challenge, but they are also designing and manufacturing 3-D printed mechanical hands for kids in need both here and abroad.

The teammates recently provided their first mechanical prototype hand for Ernest Priester, a 13-year-old Cleveland student who was unable to obtain a prosthesis through other means. He began being fitted for his hand following a Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) Tech Fest open house event in August 2022.

“I would have never believed that high school students, from different Cleveland neighborhoods, would have come together to do something so life-changing for us. It’s a real blessing,” said Carmen Priester, Ernest’s mother. Ernest now wants to join the team so he can learn the skills that will allow him to pay his gift forward, his mother said.

On October 11, 2022, Ernest received his finished custom hand, and the robotics students also provided two custom-designed mechanical hands for their first international patient — a 12-year-old girl in student representative Daniela Moreno’s native country of Ecuador named Samantha Alejandra Chiluisa Chango, who lost her left arm three years ago in a bus accident. The cross-continental connection between the two girls from Ecuador comes via IMAHelps, a California-based non-profit organization that runs private medical, dental, and surgical humanitarian missions in Central and South America.

Jeff Crider, an IMAHelps board member, learned of the urban robotics team in Cleveland at a Rotary Club meeting in which JonDarr Bradshaw, the Science Center’s community engagement coordinator and robotics team leader, described his students’ capabilities and their interest in participating in a global community service project. The students’ community service project is made possible through the Great Lakes Science Center Robotics Initiative, a joint venture between the Science Center and the CMSD. IMAHelps, for its part, is grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with the students, said Crider. 

Students from four CMSD high schools are involved in designing and fabricating prosthetic hands. Using computer-aided design software, students customize each prosthetic device for the individual user. Then they fabricate the parts using several 3-D printers and materials they purchased through their own fundraising efforts. The students then assemble and test each device before they are delivered.

To learn more about this initiative, contact JonDarr Bradshaw at To help support this initiative, contact Duke Murphy at 216-696-5544 or