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Students tackle Affordable Housing (by Harjas Kaur, student Ardrey Kell)

Students of Scholars Academy, Randolph and Community House Middle School Pick Affordable Housing Problem as the Community Project for their Robotics Competition

In August of 2019, Aarav, Abhi, Ansh and Pavit from Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, along with Harish from Community House Middle School and Tarun from Randolph Middle School got together to form a First Lego League Robotics Team. The theme for this year’s competition was City Shapers. For the competition, the teams prepare in four categories – Robot Design, Robot Game, Community Problem Research and Core Values.

Working under the coaching guidance of Shankar Reddy (Bank of America) and Pawanjit Singh (Premier Inc), they called themselves BuilderBots. The kids researched several community and neighborhood issues, all the way from school carpool line issues to climate change. They finally picked Affordable Housing in Charlotte as their community project.

As part of this project, the BuilderBots visited the Brookhill Village exhibition hosted at Harvey B Gantt center. They also attended NPR’s Charlotte Talks Live Panel hosted by Mike Collins on affordable housing issues.

The students also spent significant time researching with Equitable Communities CLT. During their research meetings, Mary and Pete Kelly explained social, civil and criminal challenges associated with the lack of affordable housing in Charlotte and how a good city design can address these challenges. Guiding the BuilderBots through the Charlotte Future Map, Mary and Pete highlighted areas with job opportunities, residential density by income levels and transportation connectivity that helped them visualize several aspects of city design that can be implemented in the future to address affordable housing shortages. Mary and Pete also took them on a tour of Washington Heights, so the students and their parents could experience first-hand the gentrification that often happens in low income communities.

Armed with the knowledge, the BuilderBots created a reusable framework of an affordable, self-sustained neighborhood design that can help provide housing for Charlotte residents with less than 80% of the area median income, and for their counterparts in other similar cities. As part of the framework design, they recommended including a transportation center, community park, walking trails, public school, different types of housing units (tiny, apartment, townhome and single family), affordable grocery and general department stores, a place of worship with a daycare, a community garden managed by volunteers, a small area for cultural expression as well as a branch of a community food bank - all inside one affordable community. They also recommended creating a trust for land ownership to reduce the cost of housing units.

After the design was complete, the BuilderBots met with Mary and Pete again to further refine their design. The team qualified for the state championship and presented their project at North Carolina A&T State University last month.

We are proud of you BuilderBots. Keep up the good work. Link to Builderbots presentation

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