CSTEM supported robotics teams soar at FIRST competition

CSTEM supported robotics teams soar at FIRST competition
By Jesse Muhammad, Contributing Writer

CSTEM Founder and director Dr. Reagan Flowers is all smiles as several of the schools that are participants in her awesome program made strides at the Lone Star Regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition. The four schools placing high in the popular technological event were Hogg Middle School, Thurgood Marshall High School, Sharpstown High School, Westside High School, Chavez High School, Carver High School and Phyllis Wheatley High School.

The regional FIRST competition was held in Katy, Texas during spring break. So instead enjoying the beach, video games and shopping malls, these students chose to engage in the battle of the minds. The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard "kit of parts" and a common set of rules.

Westside High School student captains Julius Liu and Stewart Gonzalez have been participating in the CSTEM program since the 6th grade. This was their teams best year in competition. Westside High School placed as 2nd placed finalist in the FIRST competition. “Our team was ecstatic when we were chosen to be part of the final alliances. All of us from the beginning kept saying how we were proud of our machine because we built it how we wanted to and it ran better then we expected said Julius Liu”.

Hogg Middle School had a total of fifty students who attended the three day event and was the only middle school present. But that didn’t stop them from showing their opponents and judges what they were made of. In phenomenal fashion, their robot functioned the entire time and they would eventually win five out of ten matches They ended the tournament ranked 19th out of 46 high schools, and had the honor of being alternate finalists.

The competition was stiff in the beginning as the teen Hogg group lost their first four matches. The turning point came when one of their eight grade drivers was able to single-handedly pull out a victory in the fifth match which boosted the team’s confidence. They would go on to win four out their last five matches, which Coach Juan Salinas sees as a major lesson learned for his students.

“This was what the tournament was designed to have the students learn, and our kids accomplished it! The students took home with them many valuable experiences, and they are committed to returning next year”, said Mr. Salinas. “What a great way for these kids to spend their free time. They will be off the streets, out of trouble, and learning many valuable lessons. Most of all, many of these students have been captured to go to college and become engineers. The icing on the cake is the fact that their participation in FIRST made them eligible to over 10 million dollars in scholarship money.”

The "Robobuffs" of Thurgood Marshall placed 4th out of 46 teams in the game competition qualifying rounds with a record of 8 wins and 2 losses. They even competed in the finals as the team lead for Alliance #3, and came within 2 seconds of winning the quarter-final round matches. The team also won 3rd place in the Safety category.

The Wheatley High School Prowlers robotics team has been in existence for three years and its team members have shown tremendous growth inside and outside the classroom. At he FIRST competition, the team placed 32nd amongst 110 teams from Houston and its surrounding areas. They received recognition for excellence in presentation, operation, and safety. The Sharpstown Apollos were competing in the tournament for the second time and finished 24th out of the 46 high school teams.

“Even with these successes in competition, the greater successes were achieved with the students and the team. We learned and accomplished many new things this year”, said Michael Hinkle of Shell Corporation, which sponsors the Sea Turtle Robotics Challenge headed by CSTEM. “The graduating students will move on with life lessons and skills that will serve them well.”

“The first robotics competition was an extremely challenging project. I felt very energized with excitement for our robot”, said Omar Arroyo of Chavez High School.

“As a rookie team it was difficult getting started. The actual designing and building of the robot was technically challenging because of the expertise required including electrical power distribution, radio, metal working, power tool operating, geometry, engineering CAD design, and mechanical. Compared to other robotic competitions, FIRST allowed your creativity in design and construction to show, said Ray Gatlin teacher sponsor at Chavez High School.

Shell is part of the over 70,000 mentors and volunteers worldwide who have work with students to compete in FIRST, which takes place in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the U.K., and every state in the U.S.

“We are so proud of our robotics teams because they worked so hard during those six weeks to prepare to compete”, said Dr. Flowers.

CSTEM Teacher and Student Support Services, Inc. is committed to developing individuals that will one day join the workforce to strengthen our global economy in the communications, oil and gas, information technology, off-shore, engineering, and other math and science fields. CSTEM is gearing up for the Sea Turtle Robotics Challenge to be held at Texas Southern University on May 3. For more information log on to www.cstem.org or call 713.443.4521.