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News Item: Homepage

Rancho Buena Vista High Fields its First Robotics Team

By Ray Huard


Rancho Buena Vista High School has, for the first time, fielded a team in robotics. Calling themselves, “Robohornz,” 16 RBV students built a robot that will challenge machines from more than 50 other schools in a regional robotics competition.


“It’s exciting, but at the same time, scary,” said sophomore Ivan Chavarin.


The Rancho Buena Vista team will take to the floor at the Del Mar Arena March 9-11 in the 11th San Diego Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, presented by Qualcomm.


Founded in 1989 in Manchester, N.H., FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national not-for-profit organization aimed at inspiring interest in science and technology.


The goal of the Rancho Buena Vista High School team is to get Sparky, their robot, to roam about the floor, scoop up balls about the size of grapefruit and deliver them to a bin.


Sparky also must slide a gear about the size of a small dinner plate onto a peg; when that’s done, it must climb a four-foot rope and hang suspended from a bar at the end of the rope.

Robots from more seasoned teams also must toss the balls into a tower, which is about eight-feet tall, to complete their task.


Sparky isn’t quite up to that challenge, said Dadre Rudolph, who teaches robotics and computer science at Rancho Buena Vista, and was the team’s lead mentor. The other mentor was Matthew Young, a guest teacher at Vista Unified and robot enthusiast. “Just making it to the competition and having a robot that works is a tremendous accomplishment,” Rudolph said. “It’s a big learning curve.”


Sparky is a box on wheels, a little larger than a milk crate, measuring 40 inches by 36 inches by 2 feet.


Working with a FIRST starter kit that came with a chassis, controls, drive motors, wheels, gear boxes and miscellaneous electronics, the Rancho Buena Vista students had to come up with their own design and make the rest of the robot body for Sparky.


The team had a tight deadline - exactly six weeks to design and build Sparky under the FIRST competition rules, and they were working right up to the end of the last day. After that, Sparky had to be bagged up and put aside until the competition date. “It actually took us a lot of trial and error,” said senior Andrew Garcia.


Evidence of the error part was scattered about Rudolph’s classroom, with discarded robot sections lying on desks and page after page of designs that didn’t pan out. “It does get very frustrating,” said freshman Justin Rodriguez Salazar, “but once we actually get it, it’s fun.”


That trial and error is a big part of what Rudolph hopes her students take away from building Sparky and the competition.

“They experience the whole engineering process and see how many iterations you have to do,” Rudolph said. “It’s an excellent lesson, not only for engineering, but for life. Keep going. Things are going to fail, but just keep going.”


Most, but not all of the Robohornz members are students in Rudolph’s robotics class. “I have some kids on the team who were not in my class at all, they just came in and said, ‘I want to be part of the robotics team,’” Rudolph said.


To be on the team, students had to be interested in robotics and willing to work hard, including during lunch breaks, after school, and on weekends. “They didn’t have to have any experience, be good at building or anything,” Rudolph said.


Along with Ivan, Andrew and Justin, Robohornz team members are seniors Andres Madera, Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Gomez; juniors Raymond Harding, Olivia Garcia, Grace Ehm, Erik Marquez and Angel Mendez; and sophomores Aiden Colin, Tod Manotharauk, George Zavala, and Kaitlyn Chavez

Support for the robotics team came from a $6,000 grant from NASA and a $2,850 grant from Qualcomm.



Posted by: Dave Palmer, District Associate, Vista Unified School District Published:2/28/17
Audience: Homepage and Homepage