Freya Wilhelm is captain of the robotics team at Manhattan’s Lower East Side Preparatory High School, but she didn’t exactly see it coming, reports CBS News.
Wilhelm had dropped out of an arts high school to transfer to LESPSH, and it proved a troubling time for her. “I was going through a lot of challenges in my life. I struggled with substance abuse, relationship problems, I had no social skills,” she said. “I had no direction in my life.”
Then she joined her school’s robotics team, the Cyber Dragons, at the invitation of a friend. The team designs robots capable of various tasks, then pits these designs against those from other schools. Wilhelm initially kept to herself, but ultimately warmed up and began taking on team responsibilities.
“Because I started learning to use power tools and working with dangerous equipment, I realised I can’t show up without being sober and work with these things because I’m just putting myself at risk and others at risk. And that really helped me stop abusing substances,” she said.
Her experience on last year’s team made such an impression that when the new season rolled around, she ran for team captain and won.
“Before I joined the team I was not a very social person, and I was not very good at listening to other people. This year I have to help people come to agreements [and] that’s something I never thought I could do,” she said.
Wilhelm’s got an active eye on the future, and it’s a future that includes robotics — she now plans to go to college to study mechanical engineering.