Blog Articles

Educator Spotlight, Al Salcè

June 28, 2023 — 2 minutes

How STEM Education is shaping the next generation of first responders

Alcidé Salcé is a 21-year veteran of the FDNY and a member of the Command Tactical Unit in charge of dispatching state-of-the-art, first responder technology such as Drones and Quadruped Robotics. “Whenever we are busy, unfortunately, that means someone is having a bad day,” Al says of the unit, but he is optimistic that new technology will make for a safer tomorrow. “We are always thinking, how can this technology help us do our job better?”

Al has been a member of the Command Tactical Unit for about 6 years after an injury diverted him to seek out the role. It was the perfect intersection for Al, a lifelong tinkerer whose passion for electronics began with the Atari joystick as a kid – paired with his invaluable experience in the field. And it didn’t stop there – in fact, Al was able to turn his experience and passion into an educational one, another development that happened unexpectedly and organically.

“Everything was meshing together. I was doing career day for my 2 daughters and kept getting invited to other classes. I was partnering with Drone Cadets. I got asked to start a STEAM club at the FDNY High School in Brooklyn…” As a STEAM instructor, Al introduces students to emerging technology such as 3D printing, Coding, Drones, and Robotics…much like the ones he interacts with every day as part of the Command Tactical Unit. With the success of the STEAM Club, Al was finding all roads were leading to starting his own first responder enrichment program paired with STEAM. “STEAM with Ashes was born from what I experienced my whole career.” STEAM with Ashes is an Enrichment outreach program that provides hands-on STEAM activities, skills, and scenarios to help students understand and experience what it takes to be a first responder. “Anyone can be a first responder…whoever gets to an emergency first has to do something…even dialing 911. So we start there.” The program covers emergency medical scenarios, to how technology is used to aid in rescues. Ashes is the name of Al’s Unitree GO1 Quadruped that he brings with him to teach, as well as greet trick-or-treaters. Al knows that technology like Ashes is here to stay, so he finds it important to acclimate students to it, so they become comfortable and interested. In a recent first aid lesson, Al fixed Ashes with a pack of medical supplies “I start by having Ashes carry supplies around the room to the students, and then I explain how in an emergency situation – these robots can help first responders carry tools or supplies in emergency situations.”

Al is most proud to bring these types of opportunities to students for the first time and get them excited about technology. As someone who learns with dyslexia and ADHD, Al also notices how students with similar minds react positively to learning with technology, coding, and robotics. “When they get into coding, their focus is 100%…Sometimes our minds are moving so fast, hyper or as I like to say super – that it causes us to stumble…but once we get on a treadmill that’s going as fast as our feet we are amazing!”

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