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Theta Delta Chi, Autism Speaks collaborate through robotics

<p>The Theta Delta Chi fraternity and Autism Speaks teamed up with engineers from Johnson &amp; Johnson and the RoboRaiders robotics team from Hillsborough High School to build a robot to compete in yesterday’s event.</p>

The Theta Delta Chi fraternity and Autism Speaks teamed up with engineers from Johnson & Johnson and the RoboRaiders robotics team from Hillsborough High School to build a robot to compete in yesterday’s event.

The University’s Theta Delta Chi fraternity marks four years of partnership this semester with Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization.

With the help of Peter H. Bell, executive vice president at Autism Speaks, Theta Delta Chi founded Bros UniteD in spring 2010.

They created BUD with the goal of providing adolescent boys with autism the opportunity to create and maintain positive relationships with Theta Delta Chi brothers during an eight-week long mentorship program during the spring semester, said Joshua Rosenheck, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

“Actually seeing the impact your help makes, rather than just donating money to [autism] research is truly rewarding,” he said.

Each BUD participant, called a “lil bro,” is paired with up to three Theta Delta Chi brothers, called “big bros,” Rosenheck said.

Theta Delta Chi brought the “lil bros” to yesterday’s RoboRaiders event, in which volunteer engineers from Johnson & Johnson worked together with the Hillsborough High School RoboRaiders team to perform mechanical and technical functions on robots.

The “lil bros” could control robots with the help of their “big bros,” learn about robotics science, build their own lava lamps and participate in a paper airplane contest.

“My favorite part was seeing the lil bros interact with each other in a such a positive environment fostered by big bros,” Rosenheck said. “It brings out the best in big bros and lil bros alike.”

“Lil bros” engage in a number of activities with their “big bros,” including trips to the Liberty Science Center, the RutgersZone and University basketball games.

The brothers of Theta Delta Chi hired a hip-hop dance instructor this semester to run a class for BUD participants in the Theta Delta Chi house located on the College Avenue campus. He said some of the “lil bros” danced better than the “big bros.”

Rosenheck has played a role in the life of Tyler Bell, Peter Bell’s eldest son. Rosenheck built a website to showcase Tyler Bell’s artwork.

Peter Bell believes this program helped improved his son’s confidence and gives him the closest experience possible to being a college student.

“[The brothers of Theta Delta Chi] go above and beyond what they can and should do,” Peter Bell said. “[Rosenheck] went out of his way, and it is a nice testament to the value of the program.”

Thomas Novak, a Rutgers-Newark Business School senior, is just one of about 50 mentors in the BUD organization. His involvement began during his first year, and he continues to nurture a bond with his “lil bro,” Mike Clemens, for the fourth year in a row.

Clemens was diagnosed last year with a heart valve problem. After hearing the news, Novak said he did not hesitate when he hopped on a train to visit Clemens at the NewYork-Presbyterian/ Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

Novak said it was clear to him that Clemens was not himself. Following Novak’s visit, Clemens’ mother contacted Novak and said that his visit had helped her son’s condition improve significantly and that her son recovered a few weeks afterwards.

“One of the main reasons I chose to join a fraternity my freshman year was because of the philanthropy aspect,” Novak said. “From the first moment I met my lil bro, our relationship clicked.”

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