Lin Brothers Robotics Lab Unveiled

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the Lin Brothers Robotics Lab was held on December 8 to recognize its opening.

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By Rain Shao

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at Stuyvesant on December 8 to celebrate the opening of the Lin Brothers Robotics Lab. The lab was made possible by a $1 million donation from brothers Alfred Lin (‘90), a partner at Sequoia Capital, and Edwin Lin (‘93), Head of Global Fixed Income at Citadel. The brothers, along with additional stakeholders, donated through the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association (SHSAA).

The event was split into a morning portion and an afternoon portion. Several guest speakers spoke in the morning, including Principal Seung Yu, High School Superintendent Gary Beidleman, New York City Council members Christopher Marte and Gale A. Brewer, New York State Senator Brian Kavanagh, SHSAA president Elina Tetelbaum (‘03), and Edwin Lin, who all came to support one of Stuyvesant’s largest programs. SHSAA Executive Director Diego Segalini was the Master of Ceremonies for the event.

Both the morning and afternoon events included demonstrations from Robotics members. Stuy Fission 310 demonstrated their robot in both events, while StuyPulse 694 and Stuy Fusion 479 demoed their robots during the afternoon event. Team members of Stuy Fission 310 were excited to showcase the competition robots they had worked on for this year’s FIRST Tech Challenge. “We demoed our robot on the field playing this year’s game,” senior and Vice President of Stuy Fission 310 Paul Serbanescu said. “People love seeing things move around and do things, so that’s what we decided to demo. It’s what we were proud of.”

Politicians were invited to attend in order to observe the new lab and speak on how this project came to fruition as well as discuss the door of opportunities the new lab opened not only for Stuyvesant but also for students throughout New York City. “Christopher Marte spoke about [...] the value of Stuyvesant Robotics. He went to a competition last year, and he talked about how we did so well,” senior and President of Stuy Fission 310 Max Schneider said. “The state senator [Brian Kavanagh] commended [Principals Seung Yu and Eric Contreras] for the effort they put in.”

In the afternoon, along with demonstrations by Stuy Fission 310 and StuyPulse 694, Robotics teacher and coach Joseph Blay made a speech that had an effect on many members of the audience. “[The new lab] meant so much to [Blay], you could almost hear his voice breaking in terms of how far the Robotics program at Stuyvesant has come,” Schneider said. “I think it’s just important to emphasize [Blay] in all this and his position and how hard he’s worked too.”

To prepare the new Robotics Lab for its grand opening, the three Robotics teams—Stuy Fission 310, Stuy Fusion 479, and StuyPulse 694—helped clean, set up, and organize the space. “Over the summer, near the end of the summer, and all across the beginning of the school year, we bought a bunch of furniture, got the tables in, set everything up, set all the machines up,” junior and Vice President of Stuy Fusion 479 Daniel Xu said. “The day before the grand opening, we just cleaned up and made it look very nice.”

The Lin Brothers Robotics Lab provides a large space for all students to pursue their interest in subjects related to technology. “There is a storage space for everything, [and students] have the space to work and don’t have to go into corners or classrooms,” Blay said. “This is a home throughout the day, not just after school, for kids interested in robotics.”

Decisions for renovating the layout of the space were directly made through the collaboration of Principal Yu, former principal Contreras, Assistant Principal of Chemistry, Technology, and Art Scott Thomas, and Blay. The lab replaced an area that used to stretch over three classrooms: a computer science classroom, a foreign language classroom, and an old assembly shop. “The beauty of the completion of the project is that it isn’t attributed to one individual but rather the entire community. It took many people and lots of effort to make the lab come to fruition,” Principal Yu said.

While the lab has been largely completed, it is still undergoing continuous optimizations by users. “Those clamps [on the wall] were added on Saturday,” Blay said. “We’re constantly adding more and more things. There's a lot that goes into running a shop like this, especially if you want it to be very organized and serve as many people as it does.”

Feedback from Robotics members was also taken into consideration when planning the layout of the lab. “I went through [the table placement] with all the students. The students picked out the tools they have in here, and mentors looked over what they picked out to make sure it was [correct],” Blay said.

As a result, the lab’s layout and architecture has inspired a feeling of comfort in regular students who attend classes in the lab. “With a typical classroom, what you have is just a bunch of rows of chairs and desks. In the lab, you get to sit around with a group of other people and interact with other students,” senior and Advanced Robotics student Ryan Lee said.

The space also allows members of the different Robotics teams to closely collaborate, as they previously had to use the Innovation Lab, the Ceramics Lab, and other classrooms to work. “[Different teams can] work together all the time. I’ve made so many friends with 694 now that we’re in the same space, and it’s really great to talk to them,” Serbanescu said.

The Lin brothers’ continued support of Stuyvesant’s infrastructure is due to the valuable role the school played in their own lives. “Our experiences [at Stuyvesant] gave us the confidence to believe that we can do anything in the world if we only work hard enough. We wanted to give back to Stuyvesant and provide an enriching experience for today’s students so that they will look to their future with the same optimism and confidence we had,” Alfred Lin said.

The pair’s desire to fund the Robotics lab primarily emerged from observing the Robotics team’s lack of sufficient resources. Edwin Lin had previously visited Stuyvesant and saw these issues firsthand during a tour of the Robotics Lab with Principal Contreras. “The team mentioned that they sometimes were forced to work in the hallways. It became clear that the current lab and resources did not satisfy their needs. After my visit, I called Alfred and said we should really do something for Stuyvesant,” Edwin Lin said in a 2018 interview with The Spectator.

Though the brothers had not been involved in robotics while attending, they were further inspired to create the lab in order to promote students’ creativity. “[I]n San Francisco, I’ve seen many companies investing in robotics. I believe this new lab can have a tremendous impact if it harnesses the creative energy of students who are interested and passionate about the field,” Alfred Lin said.

The Lin brothers’ lack of experience in robotics made their contributions more meaningful to many robotics members. “What stood out to me [during Edwin Lin’s speech was] there was no Robotics team at his time at Stuy, but he decided to fund the Robotics Lab, which was pretty interesting. [It shows] just how much of an impact it has that he even decided to support it,” Xu said.

In the future, the administration plans to extend use of the lab to elementary and middle school students. “I want us to ‘pay it forward’ to younger students who could benefit immensely from the exposure and opportunity to work with Stuyvesant students in the spaces we have in our building. Stuy students have an opportunity to be influential role models and mentors for younger students who may not know what opportunities are available to them,” Principal Yu said.

Ultimately, members of the Robotics teams are excited to use the new lab and believe its completion will create a great future for Robotics. “I’m excited to see what the future of Stuyvesant Robotics will be because now we have so much more potential, and I think we’ll be really great,” Serbanescu said.