Distance Robotics Production: The Journey of Becoming a Robo-Nerd

Distance Robotics Production: The Journey of Becoming a Robo-Nerd

By: James Emley, ITI-Instructional Technology Facilitator and Rigoberto Cruz, Science/Math/Robotics Teacher - Franklin High School in Local District Central


Robo Nerds

It is evident that Rigoberto Cruz of Franklin High School in LAUSD’s Local District Central (LDC) has plenty of passion towards the success of the school robotics club. This evidence can be seen in the amount of time the students have continuously logged into Zoom for the club on a late Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, when most students and staff are relaxing after a long week. Not only have many students remained in the club for their entire 4 years of high school, but many of the young men and women can attribute their desire to join the STEM fields solely on the strong camaraderie found within the club. In addition, the proven success of this club came to a climactic crescendo in 2020 when FRC Team 5089 won the Los Angeles North Regional competition held at the Mamba Sports Academy. The emotion usually associated with the taste of victory could be seen on the face of every student present, and the expression of pride was especially present on the face of Rigoberto. The journey of Team 5089 was just beginning.

Team Then, in March of 2020 everything changed for everyone. The fact that the entire world was pivoting to a new way of life was the understatement of the year. Unfortunately for many extracurricular school groups involving intricate collaborations, the priority or tools to sustain their existence just weren’t there. Understandably, many teachers put clubs on hold due to this unprecedented calamity.

However, the self-proclaimed “Robo-Nerds” of Team 5089 weren’t about to give up the momentum from the previous year. The passion of the senior leaders to continue their robotics build was especially evident. In essence, it was the passion and creative communication that kept the group moving forward throughout the entire year of quarantine. The innovation gave way to inspiration, and the students created their own robotics “building network” leveraging the power of Zoom, the design intricacies of OnShape, and the continued dedication of their club leader, Rigoberto, to plan and meet outside their normal class hours. 

As one would expect with continued dedication and structured planning, the Robo Nerds of Team 5089 have successfully completed their robot via distance collaboration. During these planning sessions, students would regularly divide into construction pods: one group would work on the programming, a second group would help design the physical structure, and a third group works on the electrical systems. One student would be designated as the “Mechanical Lead”, while the other students would physically transport needed parts to the builder when needed. All the while, the students had proactively created a support network for each other.

student working robot

Student of Group 5089 Collaborating as Engineers at the Los Angeles Regional Competition (2020)
After creating the video for the Chairman’s Award, which is the highest level of esteem the students may achieve as a robotics club, the inclusion and camaraderie are obvious. The adoption of Zoom for the creation of a virtual classroom or club has become standardized across the District, but the creation of a building network is unique and incredibly innovative..

student working on robot Robot battle

One can only conclude that this reflects the problem-solving nature of a natural Engineer or an adaptive Scientist. The students hacked their own building network towards success, and the Chairman Award video is a humble attempt to illustrate the power of collaboration in this uncertain time. Yet, it is important to remember that in times of great need or uncertainty, there will always be room for innovation to solve today’s problems. The Robo Nerds of Team 5089 have risen to fill these types of needs.

Students Designing Robot However, the success of programs like these is short-lived if there is little support from school administrators, parents, the community, and outside organizations. The investment and commitment from students and mentors directly result from having access to resources and sponsorships to cover the cost of materials and registration. Team 5089 has been fortunate to have the entire Franklin family plus Boeing, NASA, and the Roddenberry Foundation as vital partners.