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Innovation, Project-Based Learning Drive a Passion for Robotics

Sixteen-year-old Michael Sanchez thrives on intensity and pressure. Get him talking about his role on the robotics team at Energy Institute High School, and one might think he’s a driver on the NASCAR circuit. Sanchez “drives” a robot designed by him and 30 classmates, and last year they took home second place in a national competition featuring nearly 7,000 teams from over 30 countries. This year, they have spent hours working collaboratively to find sponsors, raise funds, and build their newest creation with the help of two former NASA engineers. One might compare the experience to working on a project in the corporate world. In fact, that’s what all students in HISD’s innovative, project-based classrooms experience. They learn by doing, investigating, and problem-solving. Sanchez says the projects have challenged and pushed him but also drove him to discover a passion for robotics that he never knew existed. At this year’s competition, he’s eyeing the top prize.