Thursday, December 8, 2011

Catching Up on Math and Science Through FIRST® at Heritage High School — Female Club President Gets Involved

Until recently, math and science never came easily to Holly Kraeber. The 17-year-old says her smarts are more creative and managerial than technical. But that didn't stop her from stepping up this year as the first-ever female president of Heritage High School's robotics team, which she plans to lead through a series of FIRST® robotics tournaments culminating in the national championship in St. Louis, Missouri.

"I joined this club last year because my friends did," said Holly, a senior at Heritage High School in Brentwood, Calif. "But I started to get more and more involved ... it definitely helped me catch up in math and science because I got to see their practical applications."

Holly is one of 20 students in Heritage High's robotics club which includes two participating FIRST FTC teams, and Bishop-Wisecarver is proud to be one of their 2012 team sponsors. It's one of a few teams we're sponsoring, actually, and the first one we met with face to face this year. We also donated some of our linear and rotary motion products to the FIRST for students, which makes us "Diamond Sponsors" of the nonprofit founded by owner-of-many patents Dean Kamen.

THE CHALLENGE BWC's marketing team stopped by Heritage High after school last week to meet some of the students in the robotics/engineering lab. Robert Pardi, their adviser, said the kids are starting to hash out their small robot designs on CAD to meet the championship theme this year: "Bowled Over." The challenge for 2012 is to design robots that could pick up some plastic balls, pack them into crates and stack those crates for extra points.

Students have to design a robot that can scoop, lift and independently maneuver around obstacles in a fenced-off ring against another robot. It's going to take months to contrive, build and tweak a robot that can hold its own in a national contest, Pardi said. But his teams — 4648 and 3470 — have more of an edge than ever.

"They have more experience, for starters," said Pardi. "The entire program [at Heritage High] is about four years old, so we have kids who have been here for years now. They've become really good at this."

Another plus: Heritage High got a sneak peek at the competition when the school hosted the Challenge East Bay Qualifier Robotics Tournament last month, a preliminary contest to the FIRST Tech Challenge in March. As the host teams, they couldn't compete, but they definitely got to see a lot of other robotics designs for the "Bowled Over" challenge.

"We got plenty of ideas from it," said Michael Kintscher, 17, who's in his third year in the robotics program. "We got a game plan ... we've also learned the value of research that others have done before you. We can see what other people have come up with and use that as a starting point to figure out what we can do that's new and different."

We'll keep you posted on the team's progress as the season moves forward. We'll post videos, photos, articles and Q&As of the teams' journey to nationals. And we'll introduce you to our other sponsored teams at California High School and Middle College High — both Bay Area schools — once we meet them in person, too. We can't wait!

[ For more on what FIRST is all about, read this recent blog post! ]