NASA SPACE ROBOTICS CHALLENGE
On September 23, 2021 at 8:14 am, Dr. Ortiz received a most interesting email from Chaka Jaliwa, Education Specialist at NASA Space Center. She was being invited to take a team of our robotics students to participate in NASA's Space Robotics Challenge. The interesting thing is that the competition was going to be held on September 26, 2021, only three days away. To make matters more interesting, the competition would entail programming Spherol Bots and RVRs and our students had never worked with either one!
After initially declining the invitation, Mr. Jaliwa assured Dr. Ortiz that our students would be able to have to have some practice time before the competition to familiarize themselves with the workings of the robot. The team could arrive early, 2 hours before the event, and would be allowed to work with the bots in the arena. Click Sphero Lunar Challenge to read the missions the robots had to accomplish.
Dr. Ortiz got busy and after consulting with Principal Knittle and our Magnet Coordinator Ms. Vasquez, she was able to put together a team of four students. They called themselves "Burbank's Elite". They are: Sergio Pedraza and Angel Rivera (Mr. Monsivais' homeroom), Slaton Rocha (Ms. Cope's homeroom), and Yamir Escalante (Ms. Mancillas' homeroom). These students participated in last year's Code as a Second Language program which was sponsored by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. Thanks to that excellent background, our students felt confident that they would be able to meet the challenge. Due to the short time frame to prepare, one of the students' mothers, Mrs. Maria Pedraza, was gracious enough to drive the students to NASA.
Once at the Space Center, our students got immediately to work, dividing the tasks amongst themselves. One was the driver, two others would grapple with the programming, and another would be the spotter. Each did their job admirably well, eliciting comments such as "Excellent teamwork" and "Calm, focused attitude" from the judges. In the end, "Burbank's Elite" won their competition!
The team was able to meet Astronaut Don Thomas as well as listen to talks by eminent NASA engineers, professionals who are at this time designing and planning NASA's next space missions. It was an amazing experience, one that they hope to repeat soon. There will be another challenge next semester, and we're sure Burbank's Elite will be there!
Team Burbank's Elite poses with Dr. Ortiz and Astronaut Thomas
Dr. Alejandra Ortiz, Sergio Pedraza, Angel Rivera, Astronaut Don Thomas, Slaton Rocha and Yamir Escalante