High school students build skills to succeed at Sierra College and fill local jobs
ROCKLIN – High school students built robots that could work with other teams’ creations to gain points in the FIRST (usfirst.org) Robotics Regional Competition held at the University of California at Davis on March 30 and 31 (firstsac.engineering.ucdavis.edu). The South Placer Robotics team, coached by Granite Bay High School teacher Stephen Miller and sponsored by Sierra College and industry partners, made it through several elimination rounds at the weekend competition. The top placing regional teams will now go on to the national competition in Atlanta, GA on April 12–14, 2007.
In its 16th season, the FIRST Robotics competition has attracted 1305 teams composed of 32,625 high school students. All 50 states participate as well as six other countries including Canada, Israel, Brazil, U.K., Mexico and Netherlands. FIRST Founder, Dean Kamen, says the vision of FIRST is "to create a world where science and technology are celebrated ... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
The South Placer team, named “Renovatio,” built an entry called “RunAway Runway.” Their strategy was to win points near the end of the competition by lifting two other robots up off the ground by at least twelve inches, explained Whit Ratcliff, (18) the team’s captain. “In the beginning of the match, we focused on blocking our opponents from scoring, and in the last few seconds of the game, we let down the robot’s ramps to lift two of our teammates up off the floor.”
The experience of competing taught the teenagers how to develop a strategy that would give their robot an advantage as well as make it attractive as a “partner” to other robots in performing multiple tasks. Once they had a strategy in mind, the students worked as a team to design and build a robot in six weeks from a prescribed set of parts, within a budget, that met weight, size and other requirements.
For many students, it was the first time that they had applied mathematics, physics, design, communication and computer programming to something real, according to team coach, Stephen Miller. “This is experiential learning in its truest form,” said Miller. “As a result of being on the team, many of my former students have gone on to pursue technical careers.”
Sierra College supports the high school team because local employers say that there is a shortage of qualified technical employees, reported Carol Pepper-Kittredge, director for the Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT). “Businesses have turned to Sierra College to develop on-site employee training as well as the traditional certificate, two year degree and transfer programs that will prepare students for local, highly paid jobs in computer design, solid modeling, engineering, automated manufacturing, equipment maintenance and other similar careers,” said Pepper-Kittredge. “To see the South Placer team in action, you can watch a video at our web site: www.sierracollegetraining.com.”