SULPHUR, La. – Feb. 2, 2016 – The CITGO Petroleum Corporation Lake Charles Refinery sponsored six local schools to build robots for a series of robotics tournaments. This program is part of a greater initiative from CITGO to provide students with opportunities that enhance and foster positive educational experiences geared toward science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

With help from CITGO mentors, six student teams recently claimed victory at the FIRST® LEGO League (FLL) Robotics Competition held at McNeese State University and the winners progressed to further robotics competitions in New Orleans. The teams, heralding from St. John Elementary School, LeBlanc Middle School, Maplewood Middle School and W.W. Lewis Middle School were part of a program funded by CITGO to teach elementary and middle school students the fundamentals of robotics and pay for their entrance fees to compete in LEGO® robotics tournaments using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education technology.

At the qualifying event at McNeese State University, Leblanc Middle School won the Champion’s Award; W.W. Lewis Middle School won the Robot Design Award and Maplewood Middle School won the Robot Performance Award.

At the New Orleans competition on Dec. 5, W.W. Lewis Middle School returned home with the Project Research Award. In addition, Sulphur High School also competed in the FIRST® Tech Challenge Robotics Competition (high school division) in Baton Rouge the day before. The team, sponsored by CITGO, received third place out of five and progressed to the second-level competition in Baton Rouge in January.

In September, as preparation for the series of competitions, McNeese State University hosted a workshop training students and faculty from seven elementary, middle and high schools in Southwest Louisiana. Led by Dr. Zhuang Li, associate professor of the McNeese Department of Engineering, the workshop focused on providing students with tips and tricks for building their robots and competing.

Following the workshop, CITGO sponsored students and teachers from participating schools – which also included F.K. White Middle School to enter the FLL competition. Engineering and IT employees from CITGO also offered direct mentorship to the students as they programmed their robots, acting as coaches throughout the construction and competition phases.

Teams compete for up to $7 million in college scholarships by designing and building their own robots that are programmed to complete various challenges in unique playing arenas. In total, the programs engage nearly 16,000 student teams worldwide in annual competitions.

“I am glad to see how this opportunity allows students to see what they learn in school can be applied in the real world,” said Vice President and General Manager of the CITGO Lake Charles Refinery Tomeu Vadell. “This experience taught them how to innovate, create and design as a team. We hope they will carry the lessons they learned while competing with them as they consider their future careers.”

Amanda Boudreaux, a teacher and robotics coach from W.W. Lewis Middle School, said that the robotics competition experience has been invaluable for her students. “This opportunity from CITGO has expanded our students’ access to inspiring STEM education. Students grow up playing with LEGO® blocks, so this is the perfect opportunity to utilize something they are already familiar with and turn it into a fun learning experience,” said Boudreaux.

This partnership reflects a broader effort from CITGO to provide students with opportunities in STEM education, specifically in the communities in which we operate. To learn more about CITGO social responsibility programs, please visit or follow @CITGO on Twitter.


CITGO, based in Houston, is a refiner, transporter, and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products. The company is owned by CITGO Holding, Inc., an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. For more information, visit