Friday, April 01, 2005

April 1, 2005 -------- General Information about the Robot Club follows:

The Robot Club: Falcon Robotics Team 842
Now, about the robot team. The ROV competition is only a small part of what we do. Fredi Lajvardi and I have always had "clubs" at school so we could work with the kids on project that may not exactly fit in a particular class’s curriculum. I have had the Amateur Radio Club, KC7KFF, for 13 years or so. Fredi had the kids build and race electric cars. They were quite successful. We still continue the activities.

However, four years ago we decided to enter the FIRST robotics competition
Just two weeks ago, the team was awarded the highest award at the Arizona Regional competition, the Chairman's Award. It was presented to us by the inventor and founder of FIRST, Dean Kamen. We will be going to Atlanta GA with 13 of the students on the team to compete for the national title. There will be 300+ schools, 10000 people all cheering and celebrating engineering! It's really something!

We also build a pumpkin throwing trebuchet in the fall and our high school kids mentor six FIRST Lego robot teams in neighborhood schools. The Arizona State Lego robot championship is held at our school.

The point of all of this is not to build the killer robot, but to expose our kids to the excitement of engineering and the value of an education. We have a few engineers who come and help us. The kids become friends with them. Except for teachers, it is usually the first person they ever knew with a college degree. It really makes a difference. Grades and attendance usually improve.

What we really want to see is kids starting to look at math, science and engineering as something attractive and exciting, not subjects to be avoided. The culture in our country is not promoting too many positive values. When we give talks we like to quiz the audience about a sports figure or someone in the entertainment industry. It's amazing the wealth of knowledge we have on so many people in the "amusement industry". But when we ask the audience to name an inventor -- who is alive, it is usually very silent. We don't even ask for the name of a female inventor, or a Hispanic inventor. The point being, Who are the role models for our young people? What do they see on television on in the movies? How are scientists portrayed? We are really trying to change our culture.

So, while the story in Wired was about four students, there are dozens of students who are equally talented and dedicated. The real story is that there are probably hundreds of very talented young men and women at our school that we are not inspiring or who give up because they see little value in a high school diploma. There are a lot of closed doors when a person is undocumented.

We are trying to involve as many people as possible. There have been, literally, hundreds of individuals who have donated money or time in our projects. Companies like Honeywell, Intel, Microchip, Wells-Fargo, and Phelps Dodge have helped sponsor us. (The trip to the nationals in Atlanta costs $17,000). Many neighborhoods businesses like Fastsigns, Southwest Fasteners, have donated supplies and services

Fredi and I (and Sam and Marcos and all the other teachers) appreciate all the praise that people have sent us. The author, Josh Davis did a fantastic job and we have all became fast friends with him and the photo crew and editors of Wired. I think the majority of teachers that I have ever met work very hard and do wonders to raise all of our kids. We really are not doing anything that millions of other teacher are not doing. However, I don’t think anyone can possibly be having more fun than we are having!

I’ll keep you posted. .

Our Robotics web site:

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