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ND Center for Civic Innovation and 100 Black Men celebrate first year of robotics course

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The University of Notre Dame’s Center for Civic Innovation and 100 Black Men of Greater South Bend will celebrate their youth robotics program with a tailgate this weekend.

100 Black Men focuses on providing educational and economic opportunities for Black youth, with the goal of “improving quality of life within our communities.”

Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) Director Jay Brockman said the center has partnered with the organization for many years and was looking for ways to help expand its Freedman Academy — a series of weekend workshops that runs throughout the school year for Black male students in grades 2-12.

Brockman said that’s when Notre Dame student athletes got involved.

“During the pandemic and in the time after the murder of George Floyd, there were some student athletes from some of the teams that, I think, really stepped up and took a leadership position in terms of wanting to change things on campus and in the community,” he said.

As CCI interns, the athletes worked with 100 Black Men leadership to determine what kind of programming Freedman Academy students and families wanted to see included in the curriculum.

“They spoke with parents, they spoke with teachers, they spoke with kids,” Brockman said. “And one of the things that came through was that a lot of families were looking for more STEM [science, technology, engineering and math].”

100 Black men and CCI interns secured an equipment grant from Indianapolis-based Techpoint, and kicked off a year-long robotics course in fall 2021.

This weekend, both organizations are celebrating the course’s first year with a tailgate ahead of the Blue-Gold Game on Saturday.

Brockman said students will have a chance to demonstrate what they learned over the last year and work with some new equipment, as well as to enjoy some food and football.

“It’s a celebration of something that we’ve all been working on together for a while,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to everybody getting together and continuing the work through next year and expanding the work.”

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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.