Coronado High School has established a brand new First Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics Team in an effort to broaden the STEM pathways available to students. This Robotics Team is comprised of new coaches, a new facility for their robotics lab where they built a competition size FTC playing field, engineered and coded their competition robot, created a 3D printing lab and are awaiting their brand new Engineering Station designed by Coronado Boy Scout Mason Walton for his Eagle Scout Project.
Led by Roberta Lenert, M. Ed, and NASA Engineer Pete Waydo, the CHS Nado Bots were one of only two rookie teams competing among 36 total teams in the First Tech Challenge Competition at Francis Parker High School on November 19. “Despite all the competition, our kids’ spirit and motivation was incredible and our team placed fifth for our league,” said Lenert.
In anticipation of their upcoming competition on December 17, Lenert said “our Additive Manufacturing team will be 3D printing parts and attachments for our robot, while our FTC team works on engineering, coding and driving our robot through the FTC challenge field.”
I had the opportunity to visit the new lab, located at Palm Academy, and meet with students from the robotics teams. This group of science and engineering-minded students was incredibly impressive, from their passion for robotics to their motivation to build the best resume to get into competitive college programs for engineering, computer science or robotics.
Co-Captain of the Robotics team Kailani Lenert shared her insights with me on what the robotics program means to her, “I think it [the FTC Robotics Team] is amazing, it is a great place to collaborate with other students interested in robotics, as I am. I really enjoy using our 3D printers and working with our robot. I wanted a competitive robotics team on my resume for college to make me more competitive for mechanical engineering programs.”
Co-Captain Sean Wilbur, a sophomore at CHS, also shared how the robotics program was approved by the school board. “This is my fifth year of Robotics in Coronado. Last year I was a coach for the middle school because the high school didn’t have this program. At the end of last year, I, Kailani and Caroline Timmons spoke in front of the school board and got the funding and room space for the high school branch of Coronado Robotics to begin.”
Grace Dabbieri is an exceptional young student who, despite being blind, is an integral member of the robotics team. Grace shared her experience saying “I have been interested in coding for a long time, I learned how to build websites and coding years ago, but had never really considered coding hardware or robots. The team has been amazing and I am learning all sorts of new things. The team is very inclusive and supportive, everyone is willing to help if I need it, but I am able to do most things independently; there are programs that read what is on the screen and I can work through it that way. I like to do the coding so Coach Pete is mentoring me on coding the Robot. I am also beginning to develop the robotics website and use the 3D printer.”
Woody Smith, a sophomore in his first year of Robotics, shared that he joined the team because he needs STEM experience for his military academy applications. Woody wants to join the Navy and be a nuclear engineer
Coach Lenert shared, “The expectation for this year was to build a 15-person team, and a program from the ground up and we’ve already exceeded those expectations.” She continued, “Our team is 80% young women which is really unusual in the robotics community and we hope to field two teams next year, one all female team and a coed team.”
Wilbur added that “The goal of Coronado Robotics is to make sure everyone in Coronado Middle and Coronado High School has an opportunity to connect with STEM in a meaningful way. The fact that we have an FTC team gives us more robot runs in the competitions allowing each and every team member to be more hands on with the robot.”
Kailani added, “We are excited to build the program from scratch, we knew it would be difficult but we wanted to build the foundation for future years to come.”
“We couldn’t do this without our amazing sponsors,” said Lenert. “We are extremely thankful for Coronado Schools Foundation for their support of all Coronado Robotics Programs. From FLL (First Lego League) at the middle school and now FTC at Coronado High School, CSF has had a huge impact on the amazing opportunities we have been able to provide for our teams. Along with CSF we have been fortunate to find other sponsors locally with Dr. Mullins and the City of Coronado, and through larger companies like Amazon and Qualcomm. High Tide Pizza is also a huge supporter providing pizzas for our teams while they are working long hours in the lab. We also received a grant from DODEA and have a very close relationship with Naval Base Coronado. Mayor Bailey has been an amazing mentor for both our Middle School and High School Programs.”
Building pathways in STEM has been a priority for Coronado Unified School District and building off the successful program Lenert an Waydo created at Coronado Middles School, both were brought on to develop a new high school program. Karin Mellina, Principal of Coronado High School said, “With the increase in new jobs and careers in the field of STEM, we’re happy to provide multiple opportunities for students to explore and learn. Furthermore, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to provide CUSD students with a pathway of robotics teams from the FLL (First Lego League) at CMS to the FTC (First Technology Challenge) and FRC (First Robotics Competition ) Teams at CHS.” Mellina went on to say, “CHS has had a Robotics Club “Crown City Robotics” which is also a competition team, for many years. Coach Tara Haslam works with these students who participate in the FRC every spring. Since this is a club, it doesn’t require an application like the new additional robotics program which is competing in the FTC.”
For more information on robotics opportunities at CHS click here.