Once a Steel Hawk, always a Steel Hawk: Phyllis Alinsao

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Photo courtesy of Phyllis Alinsao

In one’s four years at Townsend Harris, there is usually one moment or event that sparks their imagination and drive to learn. With senior Phyllis Alinsao, that spark came with a robot and the Steel Hawks.

Her initial love of robotics did not come quickly, as the long hours of building along with the extreme dedication almost made her quit. However, she persisted in working for the team.

“After we came back from world championships freshman year, my passions were sparked,” Phyllis recalled. “Watching the best of the best teams perform on the field inspired me so much that I wanted to go back there with an even more improved bot. During sophomore year, I had learned to dedicate myself to my work and found my place at robotics.”

This initial encounter she had with other teams at the first World Championship she attended inspired her to keep pushing and striving for the best with the team she would eventually learn to call family. Her late nights at school preparing for competition did not discourage but rather motivated her to work hard for the team to attain success.

Phyllis also emphasized the fact that her teammates made her time in robotics memorable. “I found a family and a people who would support me through anything,” she said. “We had the greatest inside jokes and most hilarious pranks, albeit they were sometimes a bit out of control. Juggling all my activities at [THHS] really shaped me into who I am today (still not the most organized, but manageable).”

Working with the team since freshman year, Phyllis learned that robotics is something she truly loved and that the hard work would pay off. As a team member, she learned to keep her mind set on bigger and better things for the club as a whole. She always wanted the club to be successful no matter what, and this can be seen in her current position as robotics President. As President, Phyllis wanted to continue the team’s streak of going to the World Championship; and she did just that, as the Steel Hawks won many awards this season under her and the Steel Hawks coaches guidance.

Phyllis’ love of robotics does not limit itself to the boundaries of the school; rather, her passion evolved and spread to her home country of the Philippines. Her admiration of students being able to build a moving robot out of almost nothing made her want to spread this ability to those that may not have the same opportunities. Therefore, she taught FRC style robotics to 60 students and 20 teachers in Iloilo, a small city on Panay Island in the Philippines. She, along with another group of people with whom she conducted this charity work, donated 3D printers and Computer Aided Design (CAD) licenses to the school in this region.

However, she did not stop there. “After I came back to the U.S., I realized I didn’t want my team to lose our ties with the Philippines,” Phyllis explained. “We collected over 2,000 books to be donated to schools in the following regions: Luzon, Western Visayas, and Mindanao.”

President of the Robotics Team and an avid proponent of expanding STEM to kids across the globe, Phyllis is a prime example of someone who took their passion for something and made it bigger than themselves. Her enthusiasm for robotics and the STEM field led her to become the person she is today, and it ultimately inspired her career path. Phyllis will be attending the University of Michigan in the fall with a major in mechanical engineering, inspired by her initial encounter with robotics.