The Vex Robotics League of Chula Vista held its final competition for the year at Sweetwater High School on January 18. While many praise robotics programs for their connection to the new educational buzz word STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) — the catchword for parents, coaches, and students was: team work.
The majority of the league teams are from the Sweetwater school district. Middle school or high school students who make the team receive a kit then work together through a semester to assemble a small robot capable of moving a beach ball down a small court — a game slightly reminiscent of basketball.
Haley Salazar, a science teacher at Otay Ranch High School, organized the league. She said that in the past, when she was taking her students to Los Angeles, San Jose, even Nebraska for tournaments, she noticed that a lot of other schools in the district only came to her local tournament because they didn’t have the money or the parental support to go anywhere else.
So, Salazar decided to start a league. She said the league was able to get grant money for the schools on the west side of Chula Vista because they do not have the same resources as the east side.
Salazar said, “I called all these teachers [who were or would become coaches] together in my little chemistry room at Otay Ranch — 'This is what I’m thinking of doing, but only if you’ll be able to host an event.’”
Robotics coach Joshua Hill, a biology teacher at Mar Vista, said that in addition to teamwork, the students learn critical thinking and how to code a computer.
David, a student from the Mar Vista team said one lesson he’s learned is “The importance of little screws.”
Two female teammates from Rancho del Rey, Gabrielle and Noel, said everyone on the team is an engineer, and though they all divided the labor, everyone helped with the design. They said their bot was named “Vic,” for “Victory.”
The best endorsement for the robotics league came from Brenda and Andrew, whose son is on the Otay Ranch team.
Brenda said that their son, Gabriel, was only a freshman when he made the team. She said, “He’s always been a little different; academically he’s very high but he’s been dealing with a little bit of bullying because of his maturity.
“Our son has played soccer since he was six and he understands teamwork, but in the sports world there’s a lot of kids that feel they need to outshine the next person. He’s never been that kid; he’s always been the kind of kid that wants to help everybody along and make sure everybody makes it.
“The first time we went to a tournament last year, I almost cried because I saw my son laughing and talking to kids that were older than him. They accepted him for who he was. [Salazar} showed them how to be a team, how to have camaraderie.”