Robots Take Over IUSD High Schools

A new sport has arrived at Inglewood and Morningside High Schools where the players aren’t students, but robots. Robotics Pathways programs implemented by the schools last fall give students the resources to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), where teams build robots and put them to the test in field games against each other. Starting late with little resources, the Inglewood High School robotics team is the only IUSD representative making it to regionals this year.

FTC teams are sent the same robot kit with a manual on how the robot must play the game. Stu dents design, build, program, and operate the robot together. The challenge gives them avenues to problem solve, overcome difficulties, take leadership, and gain self-confidence. Each member is required to keep an Engineering Notebook to not only log their robot’s progress, but also boost

self-reflection and individual thought processing.The integration of a robotics program at IUSD schools was inspired by students from Loyola High School. The Loyola student robotics team, the Bomb Squad, noticed IUSD fell into a radius lacking robotics teams, and they sought to change that. Principals Kyle Douglas [Inglewood] and Isaac Burgess [Morningside] took the opportunity and accepted the challenge to create a robotics team for their students.“When ‘The Bomb Squad’ first came they taught us how to make a motor spin and would drop in to check on how we were doing in support of our team’s development. We would make something or program something and they would be like Oh, that’s great, but it should look like this,” says Salvador Ramirez, an Inglewood High School senior robotics team member.

“The Bomb Squad kids helped us out tremendously. They spent their weekends teaching us and the kids,” said Principal Douglas. The students from Loyola even refereed their first league games. During competition, games consist of four teams playing head-to-head in two-team alliances, requiring students to build relationships with new people who they may or may not play against

later in the competition. The model teaches students gracious professionalism, a core quality to FIRST programs. Teams are responsible for fundraising as well as designing and marketing an original team brand. Teams can win awards for successful pursuits in these areas and others that can them advance them to the next rounds from field points to game wins. FTC participants
also individually qualify for $30 million in scholarship money to use for future educational pursuits. The Inglewood High School team started to form in October. English Instructor Noe Bautista and Mathematics Instructor Arthuro Nuñez stepped up to mentor and coach the students. They recruited team members from their classes and the football and softball teams they coach. They were not able to gather a team together to practice until November, giving them only one month to build and program a robot to compete against teams who had started in July and had previous years of experience. Starting late, the team didn’t have the same materials nor knowledge other teams had to build a robot.
Southern California league games starting in December, lead up to the regional Championships that took place on Sunday, February 26th. Inglewood High School made it to regionals out of a ten-
team league, competing against “We started with nothing. We were at a disadvantage, and our mentors are learning with us,” says Ramirez. Mr. Nuñez confesses, “What I learned from The Bomb Squad, I taught to the kids. Now, they know more than me! They’ll have to teach me before they graduate so I can teach the new kids.” The team played five matches in the regional competition, losing three and winning two. Finishing 18th out of 24 in their division, Inglewood did not make it to the next round, and that concludes their first year as a robotics team. This introduction to robotics has inspired senior Carolina Marquez, who was surprised to like robotics as much as she did. “I hope to bring robotics into medicine,” says Marquez. Freshman team member Yesenia Acosta shares that the sport allows her to be on a team that complements her skills and interests. “[Robotics] has brought together people that before would have never  hung out,” says Acosta. The five remaining freshmen look forward to a new year and possibly even an all-girls robotics team. Although their first season has finished, the robotics team already has their sights set on next
year. “We want to spread [the program] to hit all the surrounding middle schools,” says Mr. Bautista, “It is all a part of Principal Douglas’s vision.” Next season, they want to have a robotics room
and field suitable to practice in and host league competitions. Mr. Bautista raves about the support and the hope poured into the kids and the developing of a robotics program. “Ms. Pitts, the
choir teacher donated money for food; and Ms. Toscano, a teacher from Crozier Middle School, checks on how we are doing all the time.” Bautista and Nunez have a ten-year alliance teaching and coaching sports together, which they plan to take further into fully devoting their coaching time to the robotics program. “I’m the grease monkey, and Nuñez is the brains,” says Bautista. “We know that robotics is where we need to be now.”