Taking advantage of a new program in the Perris Union High School District, nearly 75 students from Paloma Valley, Heritage and Perris high schools competed in a Robotics Challenge in the Paloma Valley gym.
Working in teams, these students displayed their newly acquired knowledge of robot construction and computer science before a crowd of parents and other supporters. Teams competed for trophies in a variety of events testing their ability to maneuver their remote-controlled robots.
The competition was hosted by Gears 2 Robots, a service company that uses robotic technology to train students with a program that follows the guidelines of the STEM educational concept -- science, technology, engineering and math. Through a contract with the school district, Gears 2 Robots has provided equipment and training in robotics to these students all semester.
"The robotics industry is booming while a lot of other careers are caving in," said Andy Ross, founder of Gears 2 Robots and the director of Saturday's program. "This is a multi-discipline activity; it involves mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science.
"The students learn the technology and they also learn to work as a team. One person is good at building the robot, another is good at the software end of it."
"It's different," Paloma Valley freshman Ethan Hanson said about the robotics competition. "I had never even heard of this. Then Mr. Wilson (Paloma Valley High science teacher Michael Wilson) came in one day and said they needed some guys for this new club. I really enjoy the challenge."
Dian Martin, a teacher on assignment to the Perris High School District office, suggested the idea of a robotics program to district teachers and officials after taking her 6-year-old son to a class at Gears 2 Robots, which provides instruction for children as young as kindergarten age.
"I said, 'We've got to get this into our district,' " Martin said. "I took it to some of our science teachers and we talked about how we could roll this out to our high schools."
Under the leadership of science teachers Wilson (Paloma Valley), Jackie Cooper (Perris) and Karen Martin (Heritage), the students have been working with the robots only since January. By next year, Dian Martin said, students from the three high schools will compete for the chance to enter national competitions. She said the district's motto for the program is "Rigor and Relevance Using Robotics."
Through funds designated for its Career Technical Education program, the district is able to pay for Gears 2 Robots' services, including the equipment, and for stipends allowing the teachers to participate in the after-school program. There is no cost to the students.