Berkeley News Group interviewed me and Hayward for their feature on Pioneers in Engineering’s Robotics Competition.

Final Competition Coordinator

In the spring semester of 2016, I became much more involved with Pioneers in Engineering during the robotics competition season. At the beginning of Spring semester, I was selected to be the Final Competition Coordinator. As such, I organized much of Final Competition - gathering resources, generating publicity, and determining the schedule. Through extensive logistical planning throughout the competition season, I developed a new system for ordering lunch, helped recruit more than 30 industry professionals to serve as judges, and organized the schedule of events.

Final Competition itself was a two-event hosting 300 students from 25 schools. Each team brought their own robot, developed from the Pioneers in Engineering roboitcs kit.

Mentoring

I also became a mentor for the robotics team at Hayward High School. For about three months, I traveled to Hayward every week and advised them on the design and construction of their robots. This was Hayward’s first year in PiE’s Robotics Competition. One of the largest obstacles my partners and I found in mentoring the team was establishing the infrastructure for such large and extended project. Developing consistent communication, a productive meeting schedule, and strong leadership among the students proved to be one of the most important challenges of mentoring Hayward.

Hayward Team The Hayward robotics team, their teacher, and my partner, Jacob Tran. Photo by Matt Chang.

My focus with Hayward was teaching them to program through Python. I developed materials for them to practice their skills on. Ultimately, some of these tools proved to be too ambitious. The barriers to starting – with the installation, setup, and learning how to work the interpreter – proved difficult to the students who often lacked consistent access to a computer. I’d like to develop better tools for the students to learn CS that reduce these barriers.

My ultimate goal throughout mentoring with Hayward was not to have them win the competition. Rather, I wanted to each of the team members to enjoy him or herself and become more interested in engineering. It’s exciting to see the moment of breakthrough – when they discover the solution to the problem they’ve been struggling with. Hayward learned a lot in their first season, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they bring next year.