Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Robots From Six Schools Take On Best of West

The San Diego Sports Arena was filled with pride as six San Diego Unified School District high schools displayed their mechanical genius at the FIRST Robotics Competition 2009, spending three days, drilling, hammering, and welding their robotic creations so that they were in top shape for each qualifying round, then competing against students from around the southwest.

Students from the following schools participated: Sci Tech High at San Diego High; the School of Science, Connections and Technology at Kearny High School; High Tech High; The Preuss School UCSD; La Jolla High; and Madison High. The competition was held March 5-7, 2009.

Each high school built their robot according to dimensions and regulations set by the FIRST Robotics organization. Once given these guidelines, each team had six weeks to complete the task however they wished. This year, each team needed to build a robot equipped with a trailer. The game required each robot to try and fill its opponent’s trailer with as many rubber balls, or “Super Cells”, as possible. To add to the excitement, team members could be standing on the sideline throwing “Super Cells” into the trailers for a short amount of time.

Though it is considered a “competition,” the Sports Arena was bursting with an overwhelming sense of sportsmanship and teamwork, especially from all San Diego Unified schools.

“The best part of this event is that it teaches the students it is good to be competitive the right way,” said Jon Karanopoulos, the coach for Sci Tech High at the San Diego High Educational Complex.

Students from the six schools agreed that competitiveness is eliminated due to the fact that during one match you may have an alliance with a school you competed against just one match before. Each team is placed on team A or B for every round, and with that change, each team is constantly competing against or working side by side with different teams.

In keeping with the overall theme of teamwork, many of the district’s schools helped their opposing teams in creating their robot. This was La Jolla High’s first year in the competition yet they were not lacking in guidance. Kearny not only mentored La Jolla, they also shared their workshop when La Jolla found they were lacking needed tools.

The students spent their spare time walking around the busy Arena floor, seeing how other competitors done in rounds past and sharing materials when needed. Each team knew that at any point during the competition, they could turn to one of their fellow San Diego Unified schools for a helping hand -- or even a motor -- if need be.

The competition is held annually in San Diego, an exciting trip for students who came this year from as far away as Texas. Still, some San Diego Unified teams will get their own trips, with competitions scheduled in locations such as Las Vegas and Hawaii. These teams form a small community as they see each other at many of these competitions and witness how each team as improved from the last.

With many more years to develop their programs, the high schools from the San Diego Unified School District will only grow stronger and continue to take the robotics world by storm.