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CHIPS Articles: SPAWAR supports next-generation of innovators through robotics mentorship

SPAWAR supports next-generation of innovators through robotics mentorship
By Ashley Nekoui, SSC Pacific Public Affairs - January-March 2015
SAN DIEGO - Bright T-shirts and painted faces were commonplace as middle-school students throughout San Diego County converged at the sixth annual For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego League (FLL) Qualifying Tournament Nov. 16 at Eastlake High School.

Twenty-two teams participated in this year’s tournament, co-hosted by Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), with more than 40 SPAWAR employees volunteering their time as coaches, mentors, judges and referees for this event. Additionally, several of the SPAWAR-mentored robotics teams received grants for team registration or robot materials from the National Defense Education Program (NDEP).

“We’re excited to be here and see what you’re working on,” said Capt. Gisele Bonitz, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) executive officer and a referee at the event. “The Department of Defense hires 100,000 scientists and engineers to support the warfighter, and one day that could be you.”

Bonitz spoke during the tournament’s opening ceremony, addressing students, parents and volunteers. She emphasized the importance of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and noted that individuals within these fields earn 26 percent more than those working in other disciplines.

Following the opening ceremony, during which the SPAWAR Color Guard performed, teams prepared for the day’s competition.

The qualifying tournament had four components: the robot game, the core values effort (identifying teamwork), the robot design and the research project. Students designed and programed an autonomous LEGO® robot built to score points on a themed playing field. The robots completed a series of missions trying to score the most points possible during their round. This year’s research project challenged teams to develop a solution to a real world problem, discovering new ways to help people learn.

“This event would not happen without the support of SPAWAR,” said Eastlake High School Principal Maria Esther Lizarraga. She emphasized that the students participating in FLL are becoming critical thinkers, collaborators and communicators, all essential skill-sets in today’s workforce. “The proficiencies they’re learning now are paving their path towards becoming our country’s future doctors, scientists, and engineers.”

Many of the students participating at the event are thinking along those lines.

“I joined FIRST Robotics four years ago because I wanted to make friends and learn skills that would prepare me for the real world,” said Itzel Esparza-Esparza, a senior at Eastlake High School and a member of the TitanBots, the school’s FIRST robotics team, that helped coordinate the FLL qualifying tournament. “Now, I feel like an innovator. I’ve learned to work with robots and acquired essential skills like teamwork and communication.”

Eight of the top-scoring teams from this qualifying tournament will advance to the Southern California FLL Championship held at LEGOLAND® California, Dec. 6-7, 2014.

Additional sponsors for the FLL Qualifying Tournament included the National Defense Education Program, Eastlake Educational Foundation, and the Sweetwater Union High School District.

Read more: http://www.dvidshub.net/news/149120/spawar-supports-next-generation-innovators-through-robotics-mentorship#.VH3GMXbTl9M#ixzz3KlGlNkw2

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific Executive Officer Capt. Gisele Bonitz spoke to students, parents and volunteers during the opening ceremony of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego League (FLL) Qualifying Tournament at East Lake High School in Chula Vista, Calif., Nov. 16, 2014. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) co-hosted the sixth annual FLL Qualifying Tournament, with more than 40 SPAWAR volunteers serving as coaches, mentors, judges and referees to the 22 FLL teams participating in the event. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ryan Valverde.
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific Executive Officer Capt. Gisele Bonitz spoke to students, parents and volunteers during the opening ceremony of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego League (FLL) Qualifying Tournament at East Lake High School in Chula Vista, Calif., Nov. 16, 2014. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) co-hosted the sixth annual FLL Qualifying Tournament, with more than 40 SPAWAR volunteers serving as coaches, mentors, judges and referees to the 22 FLL teams participating in the event. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ryan Valverde.
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