2018 Editions Editors Notebook May

The eight-member robotics team at Washington Irving STEAM Magnet Middle School in Glassell Park won the California State Championship in the VEX Robotics Competition in Northern California in March, and, as we went to press at the end of April, was on its way to the VEX World Championship/Middle School Division in Louisville, Kentucky, a competition among 200 teams from around the world.

Irving STEAM Middle School State Robotics champions celebrate with parents and teachers. Team members are Kyle Fong, Juan Buenrostro, Nolan Aragones, Ryan Santanillo, Noa Magallaon, Patrick Chac Perez, Mathew Arboleda and Coach Herbert Valdez.

The VEX competitions, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, are engineering contests that challenge students to design and build robots that play against each other. 

On Apr. 17, in between winning the state championship and heading for the world championship, the team wowed the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council (GPNC) with a demonstration of their robots locating, lifting and stacking cones. The demonstration earned the school a $5,000 grant from the GPNC to buy computers, parts and other materials for the robotics program.

A demonstration of the team’s winning robots at the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council meeting in April.

A team of eighth graders from Luther Burbank Middle School in Highland Park won first place in a regional engineering competition in April and will represent the Los Angeles Metro area at the state-level competition at UC Irvine on May 12.

The students are part of MESA, which stands for Math, Engineering, Science and Achievement, a statewide educational program that includes a rigorous math and science curriculum, several competitions among participating schools and collaboration with a nearby university. The MESA partner for Luther Burbank is Cal State L.A. Other schools in the region work with USC, UCLA and Cal State Long Beach.

The competition won by Luther Burbank is the National Engineering Design Challenge, the only MESA contest where regional winners go on to compete at the state and, possibly, national level. For their winning entry, the Luther Burbank team designed and built a “Shadow Seeker,” a clip-on tool the size of a belt buckle for people who are blind or severely visually impaired. The Shadow Seeker is programmed to emit a beep that gets more frequent as a user gets close to an object.

The winning engineering team from Luther Burbank Middle School. From left: Team advisor and computer coding teacher at Luther Burbank, Joel Rizo; team members Kimberly Rizo, Julissa Merino, Won Joo Joswick and Sherla Chen, team advisor and 8th grade math teacher at Luther Burbank, Benjamin Feinberg.
– Photo courtesy of Thelma Frederico

The state winner will advance to the national contest in Philadelphia in June.

The winning project is the Shadow Seeker, a tool for blind and near-blind people that emits a beep that gets more frequent as a user gets close to an object. – Photo courtesy of Ben Feinberg