STATEN ISLAND — From basketball-playing robots to intuitive wheelchairs, students at Staten Island Technical High School have a futuristic curriculum.
An assembly honoring members of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic department had a special guest Tuesday — a droid built by the robotics team that students say can shoot hoops better than Shaquille O'Neil.
"We're putting a lot of effort into taking what we're doing in the classroom, bringing it outside of the classroom and taking it to the community," assistant principal Mark Erlenwein said.
"We're really placing an emphasis on this is what you learn, but what can you do with this information?"
The STEM program, which was created last year, aims to teach students not just how to build, code and do calculations, but also how to implement those skills in a real-world setting, said Erlenwein, who also heads the science, math and technology programs at Tech.
The Tuesday assembly was a way for the school to showcase student projects and thank those who have supported the school, including City Councilman James Oddo.
Erlenwein said that in addition to a hoop-slinging robot, students built an omni-directional, comfort-controlled wheelchair and worked with the American Institute of Architects to redesign the school's courtyard into a more functional space.
"What they come up with were some pretty phenomenal designs," he said.
The school's FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Team recently placed first in a Pittsburg Regional robotics tournament and qualified for Nationals.
Their creation, which is called "Trinadtsat" — 13 in Russian in recognition of how many years the team has existed — can shoot baskets from several angles and different distances, students said.
Students said they participate on the robotics team — which meets after school — because it lets them design something and see the real world results.
"You actually get to see the product of what you did," said Tristan Danischewski, 17, a senior on the team. "You actually get to apply it and see the end results."
In addition to the STEM elective, the school also opened a new television studio in January, and principal Vincent Maniscaclo said he's even more excited about the future.
"For me, the excitement is just thinking about what's next," Maniscaclo said.
On Monday, U.S. World News Reports named Tech as one of the nation's best high schools, the Staten Island Advance reported.
The school ranked 77th in the nation and 13th in the state — the only Staten Island school to make the top 100.