Viera student’s passion for robotics pays off


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Viera High junior Derek Perdomo, second from left, is part of the Pink Alliance robotics team made up of students from Viera, Rockledge, Space Coast and Cocoa Beach. He recently was named to the Dean's List.

photo courtesy of Zulay Perdomo

From the moment he was introduced to working with robotics as a seventh grader at Kennedy Middle School, Derek Perdomo was hooked.

“I liked the algorithms part of it,” he said. “I’d always liked science and math, so being able to come up with an algorithm so that a robot could go and solve a problem without having to command it on its own blew my mind.

“I loved doing that. I love doing that even now.”

The thing is … the Viera High junior is really good at it, too.

During the South Florida regional competition in March in West Palm Beach, Perdomo found out he had been named to the Dean’s List by FIRST Robotics (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

That distinction came with an invitation to attend the World Championship in Houston late last month where several winners were to be announced.

FIRST Robotics is an organization founded by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway and has more than 460,000 students participating world-wide. Its main goal is to encourage students to pursue education and careers in STEM-related fields and to inspire them to become leaders and innovators while enhancing their 21st century work-life skills.

The Dean’s List is an honor for student members of FIRST that demonstrate, among other things, strong leadership and ethics, teamwork, enthusiasm and a commitment to spreading the message of the organization.

Each team is allowed to nominate one student for the Dean’s List and Perdomo was selected by the Pink Alliance — a team of students combined from Viera, Rockledge, Space Coast and Cocoa Beach.

Essays are submitted and read by judges prior to interviews conducted at regional events. Being named to the Dean’s List is an honor said David Formanek, a Virtual Learning Lab Facilitator at Viera and the faculty sponsor for the robotics team.

“This is a huge deal and I’m absolutely thrilled for Derek,” Formanek wrote in an email. “There are only three regional events in Florida, which are attended by hundreds of teams from all over the world.”

Viera High junior Derek Perdomo recently was named to the Dean's List because of his work with robotics. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ZULAY PERDOMO​Formanek also pointed out the impact of being named one of two finalists from the South Florida competition could have a long-term benefit for Perdomo when he eventually looks for a job. Companies like Harris, Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman are close allies of FIRST.

And Perdomo is definitely thinking about a career in robotics.

“I see myself doing software engineering,” he said. “I was actually looking at schools that do software engineering for robotics because, honestly, that was the field that I felt was very interesting and a good field to go into.”

Because the Pink Alliance has been around for nearly 20 years, it is not known whether Perdomo is the first Viera student to make the Dean’s List.

But it only takes a few minutes of speaking with him to know he’s a one-of-a-kind student with a bright future.

“I was impressed with Derek the day I met him,” Formanek wrote. “He is a bright, energetic kid, and has the leadership mindset and communication skills far advanced of most his age. Not just with robotics, either. Along with a rigorous course load, Derek is an incredibly active leader on campus — band and business academy keep him very busy. It is rare to find a student with his level of commitment, dedication, passion and willingness to grow intellectually and personally, while easily sharing his vast knowledge with peers and adults.

“Derek is hard-working, personable, friendly, outgoing … just an all-around great young man. A fantastic example of what we expect our Hawks to be each day.” 

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