Middle School Students Speak to Atlas Professionals to Prepare for Cargo Connect Competition

Students who took part in the Cargo Connect event.

Students who took part in the Cargo Connect event.

Atlas’ Dan Abaroa, Senior Director of Commercial Analysis & Revenue Management, Global Sales & Commercial Development, and Jim Vallerie, Manager, IT Business Services – Corporate and Commercial, recently served as panelists at The STEM Alliance’s First LEGO League Robotics Team Virtual Expert Night a middle school in Larchmont, New York.

First LEGO League (FLL) is a competition that introduces science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to children through fun and exciting hands-on learning. Participants gain real-world problem-solving experience through a guided, global robotics program, helping students and teachers build a better future together.

The STEM Alliance, which sponsors local New York FLL teams, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing STEM education and enrichment initiatives to ensure equal access to STEM learning opportunities to all.

Each year a theme is chosen for the competition, and this year’s theme was “Cargo Connect.” Teams made up of middle school students were asked to reimagine the global transportation system and explore ways of improving how people access and deliver needed and desired goods, making all communities more connected.

Barry Fried, STEM Education and Digital Equity Consultant for The STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck explained, “As a part of their robotics league work, teams are charged with considering and proposing new solutions for the future of transportation. The exciting program encourages young minds to look at big topics – like global transportation – and use research and creativity to address a community-based problem related to that sector.”

To help the children get started, The STEM Alliance hosted a virtual Experts Night, where students were invited to ask their questions about cargo and logistics. Atlas’ Dan and Jim participated in the event, along with a panelist from GXO Logistics, spending two hours answering the students’ questions.

“The kids had such great questions,” said Dan. “This event took place after storms hit New York and many questions were focused around finding solutions to the impact of weather events – such as flooding – on the delivery of packages.”

Dan talked to the students about steps Atlas takes to prevent weather damage when shipping cargo and potential solutions, such as incorporating robotics into the future of these deliveries, like loading and unloading packages.

“Dan Abaroa and Jim Vallerie, who served as expert panelists for our FIRST Lego League Team research night, were simply fantastic,” said Margaret Käufer, President of The STEM Alliance, who hosted the event. “Atlas’ preeminence in air cargo transportation is unquestioned, but the patient and thoughtful answers that Dan and Jim provided were truly invaluable. They were intuitive mentors to these young minds.”

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to engage with the students,” said Dan. “I was there to provide them with help and guidance but seeing things from their perspective taught me a few things too. They offer a different viewpoint about challenges with cargo and had great ideas. It is always important to be on the lookout for different ideas that disrupt the way we are doing things so that we can learn and grow as a company.”

The STEM Alliance was appreciative of Dan’s and Jim’s time and shared how it motivated the students.

“We are encouraged that the students now have better insight into the supply chain demands and how challenges require the coordination of teamwork and communication to strategize and overcome these challenges, particularly during these past couple of years,” Barry said.

Atlas Chief Financial Officer Spencer Schwartz introduced the Company to The STEM Alliance and recruited Dan and Jim to play a role. “Dan and Jim did a fantastic job. We thank them for sharing their time, expertise, thoughtfulness and mentorship.”

The students are now working on their cargo connect projects and will present them to a panel of judges at the Hudson Valley League later this month.

Learn more about the program here.