• EVERY STUDENT, EVERY CHANCE, EVERY DAY •Dr. David E. Cash, Superintendent • 720 Santa Barbara Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 • (805) 963-4338
Monday, April 16, 2012
Members of Santa Barbara High School’s Programming Team, from L to R, Michael Van Wickle, Colette Speer, Max Mercurio, Patrick Tomas, Peter Loomis, and Henry Richardson.
A team from Santa Barbara High School’s Robotics Club is gearing up to compete in a national robotics programming competition in May. Remarkably, these students will be competing after picking up programming on their own as part of an after school club. In order to compete, these students must write complex computer programs to direct two robots to perform specific in competition with other teams. This differs from most robotics contests where the robots are operated almost entirely by remote control devices.
The team includes four co-founders of the Santa Barbara High Robotics Club, juniors Colette Speer, Henry Richardson, Peter Loomis and Michael Van Wickle as well as freshmen Max Mercurio and Patrick Tomas. The group persisted in spite of the fact that there were no teachers on staff with expertise in computer science or robotics. Physics teacher Melissa Woods advises the team and they rely on local industry volunteers for expertise and backing. BEI Sensors, a Goleta engineering company, is sponsoring the team.
More than 30 students participate in the club and most of them spent last summer meeting at the school twice per week to learn C programming and practice building robots from kits. They continued to work on their skills during meetings last fall, and by the spring semester, they were ready to compete. Currently the team is meeting twice weekly and on weekends to prepare for the contest in San Bernardino on May 19, 2012. The team is entering the Botball competition, sponsored by the KISS Institute.
Principal John Becchio was so impressed by the group’s progress that he has developed plans to implement a computer science curriculum at Santa Barbara High School with a vision of eventually having the school district’s first Computer Science Academy. Principal Becchio stated, “This is a great opportunity for our students to get real-world experience in computer programming.” A Robotics and C Programming couse will be offered for credit over the summer and the school plans to offer a course in computer science principles in the fall, modeled after a popular introductory course at UC Berkeley. There will also be a one-week mini-course called iROBOT this summer, taught by a UCSB engineering graduate student. Santa Barbara High students interested in taking one of the summer courses should send an email to SBHSRobotics@gmail.com
Members of the Robotics Club will be recognized at the April 24, 2012, 6:30 p.m. meeting of the district’s board of education.