On Sunday, February 20, students and mentors from all over the county brought their team-designed robots to an exposition at Madison High School. The expo was a last opportunity to prepare the robots for a regional competition to be held March 10–12 at Valley View Casino Center (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena).
The robots are about six feet tall and compete against one another in a game that bears some resemblance to basketball. While trying to hang inflated tubes on elevated bars, the robots block one another and even knock one another over. After the March event, the winning team and their robot will advance to the national finals in St. Louis, Missouri.
Competing high school teams receive the same robot kit but have the ability to make modifications. While the teams (comprised of 30 to 40 students) rely on science and engineering skills, they use a business model to organize themselves. Teams have a CEO, an engineering department, a public relations department, a finance department, and so on.
Jesus Ulloa, a Sweetwater teacher who volunteers, said, “Robotics is about learning your true professional identity.” He said the business community “scouts” and “recruits” from the robotics teams.
Many Eastlake High School students have found their future through this extracurricular activity. Akash Khawate switched his major from medicine to aerospace. CEO Santiago Garza switched from architecture to a double major — electrical engineering and business management. Alec Church says this experience has determined for him that he will major in public relations. And Nahum Garcia says robotics inspired him in the area of graphic design and marketing.