August 3, 2007

Eastlake High’s ‘Titan Bot’ Team Among The Very Best

Robotics team finishes 8th overall in International Botball competition

Overcoming adversity has been a constant in the Eastlake High Botball team’s success this year. Two days before the regional robotics competition, the first-year team scrambled to replace the bot’s “brain.” The change worked as the team claimed the top spot in that competition against other southern California schools. At the international contest, technical difficulties landed the team in 19th place after the initial seeding rounds.

Relying on their experience of making necessary repairs in a hurry, the top team from the Sweetwater District rose to fifth place in the double elimination rounds. The strong showing in the second phase of the competition carried Eastlake High to eighth overall at the National Conference on Educational Robotics and International Botball Tournament.

“We are very proud of the team from Eastlake High,” said Sweetwater Board President Arlie Ricasa. “Their efforts show just how well our students can do competing against the best.”

Eastlake High students receive congratulations from NASA representative Mark Leon. Pictured from left to right are: Jeffrey Welsh, William Robertson, Carlos Romero, Che Nevarez, Justin Saldana, NASA's Leon and Stan West. Photo courtesy of Eastlake High.

Held in Honolulu, Hawaii, the international tournament featured 65 teams with over 500 student participants from across the nation. Several international teams competed as well. This year’s task featured a Hawaiian theme to test the participants’ robots. Working to prepare the area “island” for impending destruction caused by a nearby rumbling “volcano,” students program-med their robots to harvest pineapples and leaves, place rooftops on houses and clear away lava. Small colored pom-poms and game elements made of PVC pipe served as simulated objects.

In addition to their top-10 finish, the team from Eastlake impressed the judges with their motion-coordinated robot and earned the “Multi-Agent Coordination Award.”

“Building real-life connections to classroom instruction is a valuable part of Eastlake’s Botball experience,” said Sweetwater Superintendent Dr. Jesus Gandara. “These students will remember this event for years to come.”

Eastlake High math and engineering teacher and Botball advisor Jesus “Leo” Ulloa enjoyed watching his students work as a team in preparing for the tournament.

“The students were doing this for much more than a grade,” Ulloa said. “It was exciting to see them overcoming challenges and going further then they thought they could.”

Ulloa said the students approached the task as a business project and learned critical skills in teamwork, organization, marketing, management and fundraising, lessons the students were well aware of.

“We did have to raise money to be able to compete in the regional and the international competitions,” said Eastlake student and Botball participant Carlos Romero. “The community really supported us and made our trip possible.”

Romero said as a first-year team, there were technical challenges and organizational hurdles to overcome, but the desire to succeed was always there.

“We knew we could compete against the other teams at the international tournament,” Romero said. “Next year will be a different experience, but hopefully we’ll do even better.”

Five of the six team members graduated from Eastlake in June and are off to colleges to pursue their engineering interests. With only one returning student, Romero, Eastlake staff knows it has a lot of work to do to continue their current success.

“Our new challenge will be to keep up the tradition and get another competitive team for next year,” said Ulloa.

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