Bay Ridge

While other teens plan spring break, this Bay Ridge senior builds award-winning robots

February 19, 2020 John Alexander
Cara Mulrooney
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On top of school work and the demands of being a teenager, Loyola School senior Cara Mulrooney has her plate full with the responsibility of overseeing an award-winning robotics project. 

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

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

Team captain Mulrooney has helped spearhead uKnighted’s success by coordinating the building, coding and logistics of the robotics process. As impressive as this is, it’s only her latest accomplishment.

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Mulrooney was named a Pinkerton Science Scholar in September 2019. She received notice in January 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 in their database.

“As the team’s co-founder and its first captain, I am proud of what we achieved so soon out of the starting gate,” Mulrooney said.

The Design Award highlights robots that are durable, efficiently designed and which “expertly address the game’s challenges,” Mulrooney said. “All of our hard work and collaboration are taking flight.

Mulrooney began her creative endeavors while in eighth grade, working toward a Silver Award as part of Girl Scouts. To earn the award, she made fifty dresses from pillowcases to donate to girls in Africa, taught 13 girls in her troupe to sew and attended adult sewing circles. 

“This project also led me to see the roles of director, designer, communicator and advocate as one fabric, particularly for engineers,” Mulrooney said. 

In her sophomore year in high school, she attended The Cooper Union’s Saturday STEM program, a 12-week introductory engineering course. There, Mulrooney worked on a drawing machine that uses a double pendulum to create aesthetically pleasing abstract art, and collaborated on a system that alerts drivers when they’re speeding. 

“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,” she said.

Mulrooney, who had attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, hopes to continue her work in robotics. Before she departs for college, she’s working to ensure Loyola’s robotics team has what it needs for next year, and building alliances between her school and Brooklyn Jesuit Prep to support STEM participation for girls. 

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