Clark Magnet Robotics Team – To Infinity and Beyond!
By Contributing Writer
As America continues its economic recovery, it is critical that we consider the importance of making things. We cannot rely solely on jobs in finance, software and healthcare. We need engineers. We must innovate and create physical objects – the tools, machines, devices and contraptions that solve problems and improve daily life. Our future as a country depends on rebuilding its infrastructure as well as making advances in sectors such as energy, biotechnology, communications, manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, clean water and mobile computing.
During the prosperous time after WWII, we made things. We built cars, we built machinery, we built televisions and radios, we built all of the things we used and consumed. We knew how to improvise and do things for ourselves. Schools had shop class. Students learned to use tools and make things.
Over the last 20 years things changed. Shop classes gave way to computer labs. Manufacturing technologies changed, hand drawn sketches gave way to 3D computer models. Automated machinery replaced hand operated tools. And we lost the importance of making things. Fortunately, organizations such as FIRST (usfirst.org) are inspiring future generations to innovate and create using advanced technologies. Several local schools have FIRST robotics teams and the team at Clark Magnet High School is a shining example of the type of program that breeds the engineers who will guide us to future greatness.
I recently had an opportunity to visit the Clark robotics team and see them working while on a tour of the new engineering lab at Clark. It was refreshing to see a large group of high school kids working in groups on different subjects while all working toward the common goal of building a robot to compete in the FIRST Regional Competition in Long Beach this coming March.
Some students were working in the computer lab creating 3D models of parts to see how they all fit together before going on to make them. Other students were creating computer code used to program the control system. There were also students working on circuitry in the electronics lab. One group was working in a meeting space that was set up as the team’s business office, organizing fundraising and creating the team’s media. Another group was working in the shop space with the robot frame placing wheels and gears. The main reason for my visit to Clark was to tour the school’s new engineering lab. The brainchild of Principal Doug Dall and engineering teacher David Black, the engineering lab is the only facility of its type in the Glendale Unified School District and is used by Clark’s Introduction to Engineering classes as well as the FIRST robotics team. Occupying about 2,400 square feet, the facility features a main shop area filled with equipment and workbenches, a classroom/computer lab with a dozen dual monitor CAD workstations, an electronics lab, two meeting rooms where groups can meet and strategize in a quiet environment and two other rooms for drilling and cutting.
The centerpiece of the engineering lab is a new HAAS CNC milling machine that was acquired with funding made available by Glendale Unified School District. Looking to maximize the limited funding available, Mr. Dall and Mr. Black brought in disused equipment from other schools and refurbished and installed it over winter break.
“This is not a high school shop in the traditional sense. We’re not in here with 40 students all making the same wood candleholder. When putting together the engineering lab, I wanted to create an R&D space where anyone could make anything – a place where engineering students could turn their concepts into reality by taking their digital designs and turning them into physical objects,” said engineering teacher David Black.
There are some amazing things going on in our community and the Clark Magnet High School FIRST Robitics team needs our help as they continue to fundraise for current and future operations. Check out their work at team696.org, and please email firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute.
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Melinda Clarke is the executive director of the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce located at 3516 N. Verdugo Road in Glendale. She can be reached at
(818) 249-7171. Visit the website www.montrosechamber.org.