Robotics Offered as New Elective Class This Year

An official robotics class will be taught for the first time this year alongside the Robotics Team.

Registration for the class, which will be taught by Physics teacher and Robotics team adviser Karen Davis, was offered approximately two weeks after school ended in June.

Davis introduced the idea of a robotics team to the district after her observation of other local schools like Gunn High School have a class alongside their team.

“Students have been asking for a class, and the district has been discussing adding more engineering and technical electives,” Davis said. “[Principal Wynne] Satterwhite and Brigitte Sarraf in the district office were very important in deciding to give the class the go-ahead and the district is fully behind offering our students this opportunity.”

Along with the support from students, staff and the district, funding for the class was provided for from a pool of money designed for career education.

“Robotics and engineering are very hot fields for the future,” Davis said. “The success of the Mars Rover Curiosity is an example of how robotics is used in cutting-edge space exploration.”

Upon approval of the class, Satterwhite sent an email to the Senior, Junior, Sophomore and incoming Freshman Classes informing parents that the robotics class would be hands-on and taught during seventh period. The class allows students to learn basic physics, engineering design and mechanical engineering skills. The class was full in a span of six days following the registration opening.

Students will have an introduction to basic physics, basic programming, and basic computer-aided design in the fall. Starting with Lego robots and other projects, students will work as a team to develop and improve their skills to be ready for the big, winning robot in January.

Starting with Lego robots and other projects, students will work as a team to develop and improve their skills to be ready for the big, winning robot in January.

“A camera tracking system we developed took a lot of time and effort to develop,” said Robotics Team Co-president senior Lucien Muller. “Having robotics as a class does give us more time, but more importantly it gives us time to prepare and train members for the upcoming season.”

At the moment, many members of the robotics team are signed up for the class. With much of the team in the class, the class and club will be working together during second semester to build a robot for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) competition and other competitions to come.

“In previous years, we haven’t had nearly as much time to train,” Lucien said. “Having a class this year will allow us to do much more in-depth preparation.”

With some members of the robotics team not being able to join the class because of schedule conflicts, members are still going to be incorporated during the off-season.

“There will still be after-school hours for students who cannot take the class,” Davis said. “Students who still want to be in robotics can still be a part of [the process]. Of course, being in the class will allow students to learn a lot more than just participating after school.”

Despite the fact that not every member could fit the class into their personal schedules, implementing this robotics class will help build consistency between members of the team.

“In the past the team has been mainly a core group of less than ten people,” Robotics Team co-president senior Adam Evard said.

“Everybody else would show up for a little while and then leave. With it being a class we will have more commitment from every member.”

The fact that the Robotics Team and the class will coexist with each other is key to the progress and level of the school during competition season.

“[The Robotics Team] won’t eventually merge into just the class – at least I hope not,” Adam said. “Not everybody can fit the class into their schedule. They should still be able to participate.”

The advantage of having both a team and a class provides an opportunity for non-students to join the team too.

“There are lots of jobs in the team that are not technical, and I would hope that we will still have students who cannot take the class who will join the team,” Davis said. “We would love to have students help with publicity and community outreach. So while I would love to have everyone in the class, I imagine we will always have some students who are part of the team, but not in the class.”

Students in the class will automatically be considered as part of Los Altos Robotics Team 114 and will be required to go to FIRST competitions during March. People who are enrolled in the class will have the training and knowledge to contribute to the Robotics Team during competition season. Skills that will be taught include but are not limited to computer-aided design, basic physics, basic programming, and general engineering challenges.

“I hope that this class is going to get bigger and better each year, and allow Los Altos to offer a great hands-on experience,” Davis said. “I would love for us to have a big robotics team where everyone is learning and having a lot of fun.”