By Brandon HENSLEY
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season was put on hold for members of the CV High Falkon Robotics team last weekend for they were busy with competitions and mentoring elementary school kids.
On Friday the team placed second in the annual JPL Invention Challenge, an event pitting high schools against each other in the name of science. The contest, called “Kick into the Can,” had the team’s device kick a football over a two-foot wall into a trash can from five meters away. Points were given based on whether the ball made it into the can or how close it came.
CV was one of six teams with a perfect score of 150 points, advancing the team to compete in a series of elimination rounds. In the end, the Falkons lost to Culver City High School.
The Falkons had been preparing since the start of the school year for this. They had several prototypes shown off at regionals at Manual Arts High in November, and were able to advance two prototypes to the JPL challenge.
“It was definitely worth it. We got to meet a whole bunch of cool people and see all of these different ideas and approaches to the challenge,” said sophomore team member Isabel Martos-Repath.
Martos-Repath helped make one of the devices that didn’t qualify for JPL, but she was happy for teammates responsible for the second-place device.
“We were really pleased with it,” she said. “We wanted to qualify for JPL and we got there, and we had a great time, and the fact that we got second [place] is just the icing on top of the cake.”
Senior Aimee Yeghiayian helped build the wall and the area around the trash can. She said metal beams were donated by the Post Office and the team added bungee cords after regionals to make the device work better.
“We changed the device so much. You have to make sure it would work every time,” Yeghiayan said. “We kept working on different ways in case there was a sudden elimination or an extra round we had to get through, which worked really well because that ended up being what we had to go through.”
Yeghiayan admitted she was surprised the team went as far as it did.
“We did a really good job practicing. You never know what’s going to happen at the event,” she said.
Next week, Yeghiayan said a battle of man vs. machine will play out as members from the CVHS boys’ soccer team will try and kick balls into the can from five meters out to see if they can do it better than the machine itself.
“They were very scared when they came into the robotics room [Tuesday],” she said of the players.
Some team members weren’t done, though. On Sunday, Martos-Repath saw eight Girl Scouts compete in an event in San Gabriel as part of FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The girls, who are fourth and fifth graders, competed in the FLL, First Lego League, and made a device using a motor and Legos.
“We don’t build the robot for them, but they need guidance,” said Martos-Repath, one of the mentors of the group.
Martos-Repath said the girls had been practicing for six weeks working with the machine.
“They have motors and it drives around the field and they have to program it,” she said.
Everyone received a medal at the competition, and Martos-Repath said she was proud of the kids. Before, they knew only a little about playing with Legos.
“Now you hand them a couple of motors and Legos and they’re having this thing drive all over the place,” she said.