On Saturday, Crescenta Valley High School senior Max Spero was honored with one of three 2014 Southern California Regional Robotics Forum (SCRRF) scholarships at a ceremony held at the Los Angeles FIRST Robotics Competition Regional. This highly competitive award recognizes nominees’ academic strengths and contributions to their local community, and honors their participation in one of several robotics programs in the Southern California area, including FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), FIRST Technology Challenge (FTC) and VEX Robotics Competition (VRC). Each award is non-renewable and is recognized at both the Los Angeles Regional FIRST Robotics Competition in Long Beach and at the FIRST Championships in St. Louis, Mo. in April.
Spero is recognized as a leader in programming on his FRC team, CVHS Falkon Robotics Team 589, having been a core member of the team for the past four years. This year, he encouraged his team to create innovative programs using a vision tracking system, sensors and encoders to aid in completing the autonomous portions of the 2014 Aerial Assist game challenge. The team’s robot, Alice, was able to successfully and consistently complete autonomous scoring during the season.
Moreover, through Spero’s leadership, the programming team wrote new code to make the driver-managed controls of the robot “smooth and effortless,” according to longtime mentor Bruce Wilton. This is a real feat, given the competition’s requirement that teams create all programming code during the six-week build season.
Apart from Spero’s dedication to his FRC team and programming, the SCRRF award recognizes his enormous contributions to his community. Spero has served for the past five years as a student mentor and coach to the Monte Vista GUSD robotics and FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams, helping build and lead a program designed to engage and challenge elementary students in real-world problem solving, team-work, and strategizing. Spero believes that “the best mentoring approach is to follow the kids’ lead, allow them to generate the ideas and teach them to evaluate which are feasible” and that the role of the mentor is to “point the kids in the right direction, but make sure the kids do the work.” These mentoring beliefs resonate with FRC Team 589, which is guided in a similar fashion.
Spero has mentored five robotics teams through Monte Vista Elementary School, dedicating more than 30 hours each season in an effort to inspire other young scientists and mathematicians in the same way he was inspired so many years ago when he himself participated in FLL. This year, Spero also coached and mentored fellow Falkon teammate Justin Park in the FLL mentoring process so that Justin might step in to the role as FLL site lead next year. Spero’s dedication to the Monte Vista program, ensuring that there is adequate succession planning and thoughtful oversight, is tremendous, and much needed in these times when science and technology education in the classroom seems on the wane.
Spero is so passionate about providing opportunities to kids in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that he did not limit his community service to the Crescenta Valley. This past summer, he recruited fellow CVHS student Marcus Monterroso to help teach LEGO robotics at the Pasadena Boys and Girls Club. The pair met weekly with elementary and middle school students from around the area, providing thoughtfully crafted lessons in robot construction, programming and game analysis.
Spero has been offered admission to several prestigious academic institutions, including Stanford University and the University of Southern California. He plans to major in computer science and said he is seriously considering a master’s in business. His real goals lie in starting his own company, though continued participation in robotics educational programs for younger students is high on his priority list as well.
Submitted by Lyn Repath-MARTOS