Deconstructing robotics and life as a Philly teenager

The story of David Buckholtz, a 17-year-old student at Science Leadership Academy, is an inspiring one. Earlier this month, he traveled to Florida for the Sun Life Financial Rising Stars summit to accept a $5,000 scholarship and talk about overcoming obstacles as a student.

Those obstacles include being raised by a single mother and surviving an attack by his stepfather in 2006 when his stepfather tried to burn the family’s house down while David, his mother and sister were inside. But the deeper story is how the Overbrook teen went from being a smart, but disengaged, student to oozing enthusiasm thanks to his love for robotics.

In 2007, David joined the Franklin Institute’s PACT program, where he studied robotics. The Saturday program is aimed at students interested in science.

“It was mainly just built for me to have something to do on Saturdays. The program helped me realize that I wanted to be in robotics,” said David, who now mentors younger students in the program. “They saw something in myself that I couldn’t see at a young age.”

He is now college bound (Penn State or Drexel University) to study aerospace engineering.

“That really motivated me. That lightbulb just flickered,” he said.

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