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Tehachapi High School Robotics Team takes top honors

 

Larry LaCom

THS Robotics Team 585 leaders stand proudly with the banner and trophy they took home from Las Vegas as the winners of the prestigious Chairman's Award. Left to right are student team leader Julian Romero, teacher Danielle Evansic, and student robotics team president Rocky Ramirez.

Over the weekend of March 22 through 25, the Tehachapi High School robotics team took home the most prestigious award, the Chairman's Award, from the regional robotics competition in Las Vegas. This sends them to the world championship in Houston in April, where they will compete against teams from all over the world.

The Chairman's Award is, in a sense, beyond robotics. It is awarded based on how the robotics team is contributing to the community at large, and here is why they won: the THS students on the robotics team wrote a grant for the entire Tehachapi Unified School District, and, based on their application, was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Air Force Research Lab which included HP Sprout computers, dash-dot robots and Dremel 3D printers for all the elementary schools in the district. The THS robotics student mentors have gone to each of the elementary schools to teach the teachers how to teach their students STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) lessons at the appropriate age levels. This makes the knowledge base spread to the lower elementary grades faster and more broadly than if they were to try to do it all by themselves.

The THS students looked at the fact that last year only 27% of the Tehachapi High School graduates qualified for even the bare minimum level of college eligibility – and that doesn't even give them a chance to apply to a state university where the requirements are higher. Their aim is to change the culture to make the community more aware and supportive of academic programs – similar to the community's level of support for sports programs. With the right educational background in their high school years, more students by far will land in careers based on their academic achievement than will end up being professional athletes. Do you realize there are only 750 professional football players in the NFL? These students want to see their fellow students in this and future classes find success in areas where they can be employed.

Not every student will want to take advantage of a STEM-based career, but that kind of education and experience can equip each student to excel in whatever career path they end up choosing, because not only do they gain the knowledge from the curriculum, but they learn teamwork, collaboration and communication skills as well.

These teamwork skills came into play during the regional competition in Las Vegas last weekend. During the final practice round, due to a programming error, their robot crashed into a wall and then into another team's robot, which caused significant damage to the robot. Due to that damage, they had to change their strategy in the arena from an offensive game to a defensive game.

The team pulled together to fix the damage and compete again on Friday and put in a good showing, but they didn't win that phase. Now they have a month to upgrade the materials used for the part of the robot that was broken in order to re-enter it into the world competition. This was an important learning event for them, and they are putting their lesson to work.

But they are guaranteed a finalist spot in the Chairman's Award competition based on their win in that category, and that is a win for the team. Keep your eyes on this team after the weekend of April 17-22. This team could go far.

For more information about the robotics program, contact THS teacher Danielle Evansic at devansic@teh.k12.ca.us , or go to http://www.firstteam585.org.

 
 

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