Part of RoboRecovery’s inventory at the STEM Library Lab. Todd Wackerman, Director of the STEM Library Lab, pictured left.

Igniting Passion and Purpose—One Robot at a Time.

Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient William Bai started the nonprofit organization RoboRecovery to create low-cost and adaptable robotics programs for New Orleans students. William is an undergraduate sophomore, Class of 2024, majoring in Cell & Molecular Biology with minors in Philosophy and Strategy, Leadership, and Analytics (SLAM).


What phrases come to mind with the word “robots?” Maybe “automation,” “artificial intelligence,” or “futuristic.” But what strikes me first is “educational,” “inspirational,” and “enriching.” Robotics introduces STEM concepts through a fun, hands-on medium, igniting the innovative side of every child, while making learning so fun that students simply lose track of time. While building and programming robots, students develop technical skills, such as coding and design, as well as soft skills like teamwork, problem solving, and creative thinking that will serve them for any future path. And robotics education’s impact numbers speak for themselves—student participating in robotics report greater awareness of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and ultimately pursue advanced careers in STEM at twice to three times above the national average.

I can personally attest to this impact as well. My childhood was shaped by my love for robots and robotics competitions. Designing and building robots was the creative release I needed, combining my desire to always be hands-on with the abstract ideas that roamed my imagination. At the same time, the interpersonal and technical skills I developed along the way have become the foundations of my identity and career ambitions today. I cannot imagine myself without this formative childhood experiences, and it’s my mission to enable every student—regardless of financial or social circumstances—to have these same opportunities. Realizing my story is a story of socioeconomic privilege, one all but inaccessible to far too many students in New Orleans, inspires me to make STEM enrichment a privilege for all kids.

In February 2021, I started a nonprofit organization called RoboRecovery with this vision: to break down barriers to STEM enrichment by increasing access to educational robotics experiences. Through brainstorming and speaking with community leaders, I sketched out an organizational model to offers a low-cost, easy-to-implement robotics program to schools and after school organizations, specifically, those currently without programs or the resources to start one. RoboRecovery offers free loans of robotics kits, a lesson plan introducing students to robotics over the course of ten weeks, and student mentorship from outreach interns through the Tulane Center for Public Service (CPS) Internship Program. This model is designed such that at little cost, schools and after school programs get all equipment, supplies, and assistance with club leadership in one streamlined package. This saves them thousands of dollars in equipment costs and teachers the headaches of initiating and coordinating a new program, while giving students equitable access to robotics.

RoboRecovery’s Logo
RoboRecovery’s Logo


During the summer of 2021, I laid the groundwork for RoboRecovery’s pilot robotics program launch in the fall of 2021.

  • I reached out to New Orleans schools and afterschool organizations to market my venture, establishing partnerships with Son of a Saint and New Orleans College Prep for our pilot model.
  • I received mentorship for the development of my program through the 4.0 Schools Essentials Fellowship, a cohort of founders of educational equity ventures.
  • Katy Perrault, RoboRecovery’s social media and Online Communications Manager, and I wrote a mission statement and crafted marketing material to recruit schools in the area for our program and to solicit donations.
RoboRecovery Supply Side Flyer
Flyer to robotics equipment donors
RoboRecovery Flyer to Teachers
Flyer to market RoboRecovery to teachers and community partners
  • Sarah Broussard, RoboRecovery’s Volunteer Coordinator, and I worked with Tulane’s CPS to establish a Tier II Public Service Internship in partnership with the Tulane Center for K-12 STEM Education and the STEM Library Lab.
  • I designed an open-source robotics lesson plan for our program, which introduces to the basics of robotics, the engineering design process, and coding before challenging them apply their knowledge through robot “missions.” Linked here is a video of a robot completing one of these missions.
  • I’ve attended teacher professional development workshops to learn how best to teach science and engineering principles. While participating, I gained perspective from local teachers on what resources are available and what their school districts are currently doing with robotics programs.
  • RoboRecovery has acquired around $9000 (and counting) worth of in-kind donations of LEGO robotics equipment. Our equipment is currently being stored at the STEM Library Lab, a library of science equipment for teachers that’s also fiscally sponsoring RoboRecovery.


RoboRecovery's Current Sponsors and Supporters
RoboRecovery’s Current Sponsors and Supporters


Part of RoboRecovery’s inventory at the STEM Library Lab. Todd Wackerman, Director of the STEM Library Lab, pictured left.
Part of RoboRecovery’s inventory at the STEM Library Lab. Todd Wackerman, Director of the STEM Library Lab, pictured left.


The skills that I’ve developed during this endeavor have been innumerable, many of which I would’ve never learned strictly through a traditional college lecture hall setting. I’ve picked up the basics of market research and effective marketing, building a program that addresses a tangible shortcoming in New Orleans and advocating for the importance of after school robotics enrichment. While marketing, I’ve nonetheless grown as an active listener, speaking with several teachers and school administrators to gain a thorough grasp on their needs, striving to make our program culturally responsive, and adapting to the schedules of local teachers and students. I’ve become a better public speaker, negotiator, teacher, people manager, and thinker in the few months that RoboRecovery has existed, and I can only begin to imagine the spectrum of capabilities I will master through this journey. In whichever specialized area I pursue beyond college, these generalizable skills are applicable in any future career, propelling me into positions where I can innovate and lead to serve others.

I’ve also realized an innate sense of urgency for change within myself. I recognize that I currently possess the creative and entrepreneurship abilities to make socially just solutions to tangible disparities. It has become more so a personal duty to exercise these abilities right now rather than simply acknowledging such inequities. I aspire to shatter internalized oppression, giving underserved students experiences that will help them recognize their inner potential and ability to pursue advanced science and engineering careers—even despite institutional obstacles.

Dr Oertling donations
Collecting donations of LEGO robots and laptops from Dr. Annette Oertling, retired Tulane professor and president of FIRST Louisiana-Mississippi


“There are no failures, only lessons.  No failure is permanent. Everything is iterative. Life is iterative. Celebrate failures in life, as you would in design. Fail, learn, improve.”

As I continue to develop RoboRecovery and expand its impact, I still have much more to learn from my experiences and mistakes. Pathways and opportunities will flop—just as many have already. But the development of this venture is an iterative process, one just like the engineering design process we teach robotics students. As the word “robot” brings to mind “inspiring,” “enriching,” and “educational,” so too has this entrepreneurial process—it’s a journey that’s been “inspiring,” personally “enriching,” and an “education” I’ll never forget.