Bay Ridge student spearheads award-winning robotics team

BAY RIDGE — While other students are planning what to do on their spring break vacations, Loyola School senior Cara Mulrooney is busy overseeing an award-winning robotics project. 

Recently, Mulrooney, who lives in Bay Ridge, was thrilled to learn that her robotics team, uKnighted, finished in second place in a FIRST Tech Challenge competition, despite it being only the second time the team has competed in a competition.

The uKnighted team was also awarded the Design Award and a Finalist Alliance Award for its robot, and its second place finish helped it qualify for the Super Qualifiers next month.

Mulrooney serves as captain of the team and has helped spearhead the team’s success by coordinating all aspects of the robotics process — building, coding, and logistics. Yet, as impressive as this is, it is only the latest accomplishment for Mulrooney.

In September 2019, Mulrooney was named a Pinkerton Science Scholar and in January she received notice that her summer research project at ARISE NYU is being reported to the National Science Foundation. 

The selection means that she is now identified by the principal investigators as a contributor to an NSF-supported project and is now listed officially in their database.

“This year, the many strands of my activities came together in uKnighted of Loyola’s debut in Tech Challenge of NYC FIRST Robotics,” Mulrooney told this paper. “As the team’s co-founder and its first captain, I am proud of what we achieved so soon out of the starting gate.”

“We were very excited to have won the Design Award, which highlights robots that are durable, efficiently designed, and which expertly address the game’s challenges. All of our hard work and collaboration are taking flight,” added Mulrooney.

Mulrooney began her creative endeavors while in eighth grade, working toward a Silver Award as part of Girl Scouts. “I conducted a project to make fifty dresses from pillowcases for impoverished girls in Africa and taught thirteen girls in my troop how to sew. I went to adult sewing groups in Brooklyn to involve a wider community. This was my first project for advocacy, which left me more interested in the power of engineering to change lives. This project also led me to see the roles of director, designer, communicator, and advocate as one fabric, particularly for engineers,” she added.

In her sophomore year in high school, she attended The Cooper Union’s Saturday STEM program, a 12-week introductory engineering course that allowed students to spend each Saturday learning and applying new skills.

“I worked on a drawing machine that uses a double pendulum to create aesthetically pleasing abstract art,” explained Mulrooney. “I also collaborated on a system that alerts drivers when they are going over the speed limit of a certain area. These programs were major turning points in my engineering journey, as they introduced me to the engineering method as well as to the importance of collaboration. It was here that I found my passion for electrical engineering, a path I hope to pursue in the future.” 

Mulrooney, who had attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, hopes to continue her work in robotics. “Besides working to ensure that Loyola’s new Robotics Team has what it needs to continue its success next year and in subsequent years, I am working on alliances at both Loyola and Brooklyn Jesuit Prep to support more young women’s participation in STEM,” added Mulrooney.

Bay Ridge student Cara Mulrooney and her award-winning project. Photo courtesy of Cara Mulrooney

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.