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August 11, 2017

Rainbow PUSH Robot Marches/Rolls in Bud Billiken Day Parade


August 11, 2017 

Rainbow PUSH Robot Marches/Rolls in Bud Billiken Day Parade



CHICAGO – And a little robot shall lead us


PUSH Excelsis, a mobile robot built and operated by the instructors and students in the PUSH Excel STEAM program, will be the pacesetter for the coalition’s 50-member contingent marching in the 88th annual Bud Billiken back-to-school parade, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.


A tag-team of children and teenagers, using cell phones and a video game controller, will guide PUSH Excelsis, PE for short, along the parade route that stretches for 2.5 miles down historic Martin Luther King Drive.


The students also helped design and paint the PUSH Excel float depicting an African American girl, bursting through a door to climb a STEAM staircase of achievement and success into the future. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.


The float will be draped in a banner that proclaims the core mission of the academy:


“PUSH Excel, Stop the Violence, Save the Children, PUSH STAY SAFE APP, Strong Minds Break Strong Chains.”


PUSH Excel, the educational arm of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, has had a STEAM Saturday academy since 2011, providing classes in aviation, robotics, mobile apps, coding and a stock market game. The director of the academy is Dr. Martin Pieters, a PhD in chemical engineering.


“This year our float is unique because our technology team designed and built our entry and our first ever robot, PUSH Excelsis, with the active involvement of our STEAM students in the true tradition of Bud Billiken, the patron saint of children and education,” said Rev. Janette C. Wilson, senior adviser to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and executive director of PUSH Excel.


“We are so proud of our children,” Rev. Wilson continued. “We have a cross section of children from diverse family backgrounds and with different learning abilities, but all have been able to find a place in our STEAM initiative. Therefore every child can push for excellence because every child has a talent, a strength and an ability to dream, create and imagine a better world.”


The parade kicks off at 10 A.M. Saturday from King Drive and Oakwood Boulevard. The other day, Bruce Petersen, a retired manufacturing engineer, who now teaches robotics at PUSH as a volunteer, had the students practicing driving PUSH Excelsis down the halls of the headquarters.


Canyon, 13, took the controls first, guiding the three-foot tall robot, constructed out of three black Sterilite containers on a drive-base, powered by two 12-volt batteries. The eighth grader steered the robot past photographs of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois and Harriet Tubman, among other imagines of African American giants and role models that line the wall just outside the robotics room.


“I’ve always wanted to build robots since I was a little kid,” Canyon said, as he deftly sent the robot into a LeBron James style spin. “Someday, I want to invent floating cars.”


PUSH Excelsis will be decked out for the parade, including a “Stop the Violence, Save the Children” t-shirt and a new head of fiber optic hair that lights up.


“I’m not going to have another bald robot like me,” Petersen said.










Don Terry

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