Sixteen tech-minded students at Central Union High School will play mad scientists next month when they ship their basketball-chucking robot across the country to compete in a regional robotics competition in New York, a competition where teams have financial backers like Intel and sport several engineering mentors.
St. Louis, Mo. Again, the undermanned and underfunded Holtville squad will take on bigger and more well-moneyed competitors.
In the “Rock ’Em Sock ’Em” world of robotics competitions, money and assistance matter, but brains and sheer will power make up for a lot. That’s why the teams out of CUHS and Holtville have earned their way into these competitions, not just in the engineering behind making these robots go, go, go, but by pouring just as much of that effort into fundraising and still maintaining high classroom standards.
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These are the students who look to bring glory to their campuses through anything but traditional means. Instead of playing sports, they’re laying sprockets; rather than mock trial courtroom competition, they’re doing time trials on cold cement floors in the backs of hardware stores.
Many of the kids on both of these teams will be familiar to those familiar with Imperial Valley Math Engineering Science Achievement competitions that include teams from schools all over the Valley.
These are future success stories, which has been a fact determined by the rate of students attending four-year universities who have been part of the MESA program.
The robotics part of this is the fun and imagination-stealing aspect, but in the end, MESA students are being given a firm grounding in an area where the United States slips up against other areas of the world — mechanical engineering, science and mathematics.
While the David vs. Goliath theme is fitting for the robotics competitions our local students will be participating in, it’s also an apt metaphor for the future success such high school programs have in setting this country up for a scientific resurgence at the hands — or should we say, joysticks, CPUs and soldering irons — of our youths.