DOWNEY- What began last year as a discussion among then Downey pro tem, now Mayor Roger Brossmer, Columbia Memorial Space Center executive director Scott Pomrehn, and the chief proponents of DUSD's forward-looking 'Project Lead the Way' program in the direction of more student involvement in the real world of robotics has now borne its first fruits.After much hard work and intense practices at the space center, four robotics teams from Warren High competed in the VEX regional robotics competitions-the district's first ever--held in Las Vegas, Nevada on Dec. 3, and returned home with four trophies, with the delegation's four-member Team l snagging both the Excellence Award and Robot Skills trophies. In so doing, the team qualified for the U.S. national VEX robotics championship-in itself considered a mind-blowing achievement--scheduled for March 15-17, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as for the 2012 VEX robotics high school world championship scheduled for April 19-21 in Anaheim. In addition, Columbia Team 2 won the Judges trophy, while Team 3 won the Design trophy. Other teams they faced were from Palo Verde HS, Serrano HS, and Las Vegas' own Centennial HS. "Not bad for a first competitive outing by a student robotics team that didn't really know what to expect," said Pomrehn. The three teams that did not qualify, this time joined by a team from Downey High, took advantage of another window of opportunity the following week: on Dec. 10 they mixed it up with forty other teams including those from such schools as Carson's California Academy of Mathematics & Science, Otay Ranch HS (Chula Vista), and Redondo Unified School District, and once again Warren High's Team 2 came away with the Tournament Champions trophy, qualifying it as well for next year's aforementioned national and world championships. Meanwhile, the tournament's Innovate Award trophy went to WHS' Team 4. "I'm not surprised our teams were competitive. But to win as we did in our first two tournaments is simply phenomenal," said WHS engineering teacher Glenn Yamasaki who, as WHS robotics team coach, along with DHS technology teacher/DHS team coach Alan Jamka, whipped the self-motivated and resourceful teams into fighting shape. Jamka chimed in: "Our goal was to compete and begin the learning process of how the VEX robotics world works. To come away with two teams qualifying for the national and world finals is just outstanding." Indeed, as VEX has said early on while promoting the competitions, "In addition to the participants having a great time, the students will learn many academic and life skills." Brossmer, who once taught at Downey High and is also concurrently senior director, certificated personnel services, said: "Downey has great teachers and outstanding students. I am not the least bit surprised by our success. The partnership between the city and the school district has leveraged resources and talent in an effort to get students excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The robotics program is just one of the many partnerships planned between the two organizations." Tuesday, the Downey City Council made sure the efforts of the fifteen Columbia Memorial Space Center robotics members were recognized with congratulatory certificates. A measure of the kids' passion was indicated in this comment by a father of one of them, who said: "I would see my son working on his robotics kit, and whenever I'd offer my help, he'd only say 'Go away, dad.'" The theme of this year's robotics competition, called "VEX Gateway," puts emphasis on who builds the "most innovative" robot. The game itself features two alliances-one "red" and one blue"-composed of two teams each, which compete in matches consisting of a twenty-second autonomous period (meaning by itself) followed by two minutes of driver-controlled play. The rules manual further stipulates: "The object of the game is to attain a higher score than your opponent alliance by scoring barrels and balls in goals, earning bonus points and doubling or negating goals." Thus, according to Yamasaki, "In all this, from the start we've focused on two areas-designing and building the robot, and driving it." Meanwhile, two First Lego League (FLL) teams from West Middle School travel this Saturday to Chatsworth to compete, according to WMS technology coordinator Trirath Tansopalucks, "against the best of the FLL" in the Los Angeles FLL regional championship. While the vital contributions made by Dr. Mary Stauffer in all these projects is well-known, Pomrehn said future middle and high school qualifying tournaments, as well as both the upcoming 2012 VEX robotics national and world championships, are still in need of sponsors. NASA grants covered just the funding for the initial capital outlay and 2011 tournaments. He can be reached at 562-231-1205, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The 15-member WHS and DHS robotics teams, comprising mostly seniors and juniors, includes: Mario Acosta, Jaime Barillas, Kelvin Flores, Evan Gregoria, Mario Ibarra, Kevin Martinez, Brian Nguyen, Andres Nipp, Bernabe Perez, Nicholas Pio, Marco Rivera, Alex Salgado, Steven Song, Anthony Tan, and Dan Tejada.
********** Published: December 15, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 35