Edwards Robotics teams succeed at competition, STEM outreach

Members of the Scorpion Robotics Club competed at a robotics competition earlier this year where one of the teams won the FIRST Tech Challenge Interleague Competition for the second year in a row.

Scorpion Robotics is a robotics program currently in its seventh year at Desert Junior-Senior High School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., said Juan Garcia, 812th Aircraft Instrumentation Test Squadron.

“During the year, the student teams build a complete robot from the ground up. Coaches and mentors drawn from the Edwards community volunteer to provide guidance and supervision, but the robot is the student’s own design,” said Garcia, who serves as the head coach for the club.

The club consists of three teams; Team 7227 Scorpion Robotics, Team 9074 Robo Scorions and Team 10187 Desert Sting. Desert Sting was formed earlier this school year due to the high interest in the club amongst seventh-graders, Garcia said.

Scorpion Robotics Club Team 7227 member, Aiden Peltier, works on an improved arm mechanism for his team’s robot at Desert Junior-Senior High School on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 12, 2020. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)

“During the build process, students learn concepts in mechanical design, electronics, and computer programing. They also learn the importance of test and evaluation and detailed documentation,” Garcia said. “The teams apply what they learn throughout the year to maximize their scoring potential for that year’s game.”

The club participates in four meets during the school year and all three have been successful thus far. Team 7227 won the Interleague Championship for the second year in a row, and also took home the Judge’s Award based on the team’s robot design, team spirit, interviews and Gracious Professionalism.

Team 9074 reached the semi-finals of the Interleague Championship and won the Motivate Award; the award is given to the team that embraces the culture of FIRST and clearly shows what it means to be a team.
Meanwhile, the club’s youngest team, Team 10187, finished ranked fourth out of 25 for the day at the Interleague Championship.

“We can take a student who doesn’t know anything about hardware or software; any of that stuff, and we can get them to basically build an entire robot,” said Juan Carlos Garcia, an 11th grader and Robotics Club president and Team 7227 captain. “We also teach CAD (Computer-Aided Design) if they want to custom make parts. We also teach a lot of code; we use a simpler form of code called Blockly which has pre-made parts that you can put in and then you enter values; it makes it a little bit easier for when you’re just getting into code.”

Coach Charles Eger, 773rd Test Squadron, helps Scorpion Robotics Club member Brayden Maye with computer software coding at Desert Junior-Senior High School on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 12, 2020. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)

The competition format strengthens competitiveness amongst the other clubs but it also enhances the students’ teamwork, Garcia said. Garcia explained Team 7227 were faced with an unforeseen challenge with their cell phones, which were used in communicating with their robot.

“I’d like to say that it was a smooth, easy process. But in the final round of the competition they had an unexplained communication problem with their phones; so they were scrambling to reconfigure and setup a whole new set of phones,” he clarified.

The team used their available time-outs to try and solve the problem.

“In crunch time, they pulled it together and they managed to get their robot ready for competition and they won the final round in straight matches,” Garcia said. “As coaches, we couldn’t be more proud of how they did because rather than fall or crumble under the pressure, they came together and different students found ways to contribute to resolve the issue.”

Scorpion Robotics Club Team 7227’s robot performs tests prior to receiving an upgraded arm at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 12, 2020. Desert Junior-Senior High School currently has three separate teams within the club that competes at local competitions. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)

The club also provides a way for Team Edwards members to be involved with augmenting STEM outreach to local students, Garcia said.

“Being out at Edwards Air Force Base, I think it’s only appropriate that we look for ways to help promote STEM careers,” he said. “One of the benefits of being out here at Edwards is a lot of our volunteers come from the Edwards (STEM) community, whether it’s military or civilian employees, parents of the students, so the support that we receive from the base is great.

The presence of the club on Edwards has added benefits to students and the robotics program by letting students learn from subject-matter engineers, said Juan Carlos.

“It’s awesome, I love it,” Juan Carlos said. “I love robotics and engineering in general so having this (Scorpion Robotics) at our disposal at our school; it’s a lot of fun and even better, the fact that we’re on Edwards, we have real, big-time engineers that are able to come and help us and offer their insights and expertise, so it’s awesome, I love it.”

For volunteer opportunities, contact Juan Garcia at juan.garcia.26@us.af.mil.
 
 
 

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