Space center looks to keep science alive

DOWNEY - Knowing that the future of U.S. science and technology depends on the nation's youth, the Columbia Memorial Space Center is once again teaming up with Warren High School and Downey High School in hosting its second Robotics Competition this coming Nov. 19.The whole day affair (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) will pit robotics teams within each school and against each other, with the four top teams going on to the Poway regional competitions on Dec. 10. There is a $5 admission fee, with annual space center members admitted free. The top three winners from among the 29 regional competitors in Poway will be sent to the VEX robotics world championship which is scheduled for early next year in Anaheim. This year's Vex competition game, called "Gateway", revolves around "building the most innovative robots": the robotics teams will be tested in a sequence of specially-designed games, and the team accumulating the most points in the championship round will be declared champion. The Warren High robotics entries are being supervised by WHS technology teacher/robotics coach Glenn Yamasaki, while his DHS counterpart, Alan Jamka, is doing the same thing on Brookshire Ave. Both campuses are conscious, needless to say, of the district's commitment to the STEM imperative, which seeks to inspire and help students across the country to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, if the United States is to continue to compete effectively on the global stage. In these efforts, the space center provides the STEM-oriented students "a place to practice, providing them use of the materials needed to build their robots, and helping with costs associated with competition registration and transportation to competition sites." Also heavily involved are the students' mentors and other teachers. West Middle School is in on the act, too. It is scheduled to show off its four design robotics teams on Nov. 12: they will be competing in the upcoming qualifying tournament to be held in La Canada, to determine which programmed autonomous robot can score the most points on "a themed playing field and developing a solution" to a problem they will have identified in the process. West Middle School technology teacher Trirath Tansopalucks says the showcase event on Nov. 12 will serve as preparation for his teams for the real event in La Canada from 1-4 p.m. on Nov. 19. There will be an admission charge of $5, with the usual waiver for annual members. The La Canada event is this year's FLL (First Lego League) Challenge on the theme, 'Keeping Food Safe'. Because of all these goings-on, and others, at the space center, office manager Kaili Torres says, "We've really picked up our attendance. Last fiscal year, from July 2010 to June 2011, attendance at the center was 24,000. We're anticipating even more this fiscal year. At the same time, we're working at securing more donations, more grants, from various sources." "The Columbia Memorial Space Center hopes to reach out to other Downey area schools, including private schools, to expand our robotics programs. We also hope to hold more tournaments here at our center, where high school and middle school robotics teams from all over can come and compete."

********** Published: October 27, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 28