By Ms. Audra Calloway (Picatinny)May 15, 2018
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - A student at East Orange STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy, and a former member of a Picatinny-sponsored FIRST robotics team, was recently accepted to Princeton University with not one, but two full scholarships.
In addition to being offered a full scholarship by Princeton University, Frantzesca Barron, 17, received the Gates Scholarship. This scholarship was awarded to only 300 individuals out of more than 28,700 applicants nationwide. It covers the entire cost of attendance for a public or private four-year university or college.
Barron is chief executive officer of her FIRST robotics team this year. She has been a part of FIRST robotics since her freshman year in high school. FIRST is an acronym that means For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
"I basically manage the operations of the team-make sure everything is running smoothly, make sure everything is done on time," she said.
During a FIRST robotics competition, teams of students build robots and compete in a variety of engineering tasks.
Picatinny Arsenal provides funding and mentors for dozens of FIRST robotics teams.
"FIRST has proven to be a great resource for talented and driven individuals," said Shah Dabiri, Picatinny STEM coordinator. "It's very nature of empowering students to push their understanding of all things STEM, as well as pushing their own abilities, further refines their instinctual capability.
It's no surprise that someone like Frantzesca gravitated to such a challenging activity."
Picatinny has sponsored Barron's robotics team for five years now.
Picatinny senior chemical engineer Mo Elalem, who coached her teams, described Barron as "one of the brightest young women I have worked with."
Barron knew she wanted to join FIRST robotics when she began her studies at East Orange STEM Academy.
"I heard a lot about it online as I was researching what the school had to offer," she said. "But I didn't know what I was getting into."
"(FIRST) grew a passion for something I didn't previously have an interest in," Barron said. "I was really interested in math and numbers and analyzing all that. But then I saw something more, which is the business aspect.
"The operations of the team and understanding all of that. And also the robotics part of that-the building of the robot, the engineering part, the electrical part."
Barron found that the hands-on skills she learned through FIRST could transfer into other areas of her life. One day her mother was waiting on Barron's father to come home and take apart a bunk bed.
"I was like 'Mom, I know exactly what tools to use. Get me the Allen key,"' she remembers. "So I took apart the bunk bed and I saved my dad some time."
At Princeton, Barron plans to major in math and/or eco?nomics, with a certificate in finance.
While she's unsure what she will do after graduation, she is contemplating a job in the corporate world, possibly the pharmaceutical industry.
Barron advises students who apply to colleges to work hard and pay their dues needed for success now. And play later.
"If you put in the sacrifice, you put in the time now, it will definitely pay later," she added.
Barron also advises college applicants to trust fate and to work on extracurricular activities and seek out community involvement if they would like to get accepted at a college of their choice.
"You want to make sure you're well rounded so that you stand out holistically as an applicant to colleges," she said.
Barron participated in extracurricular activities such as coaching middle school FIRST robotics, varsity volleyball, and the National Honor Society.
She attributed part of her success to mentors, such as her mom and family, her first grade teacher, and her middle school math teacher.
Barron's interest in math started when she was 3 years old.
"Before I started preschool, my mom basically taught me at home how to read and write and teaching me math at a second grade level. That groomed me," Barron said.
Even if students are not interested in pursuing a math degree, Barron believes that everyone can find some way to benefit from participation in FIRST.
"I think that through STEM robotics you're going to find your passion and you're going to focus on it. Because there are so many components and so much team effort that goes into the robotics," she said.
"I have a friend that's pursuing music engineering and I told him he can use that in the video, which is also included in FIRST robotics.
"I think FIRST robotics incorporates every field possible. If you pursue robotics, you'll definitely find your love and your interests for sure."
Barron's FIRST team ranked 63 in this year in the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes ew Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, and Delaware.