Chandler robotics club wins state award for design SanTan Sun News

Chandler robotics club wins state award for design

April 12th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Chandler robotics club wins state award for design
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SANTAN SUN NEWS STAFF

The All Girls Big Bang Robotics Team, comprising four girls from Chandler and Mesa, recently came out on top in a regional tournament with the Champions Award and went on to capture a state award for best robot design.

The team, one of several by the Chandler nonprofit Education Empowers, won first place in the regional FIRST Lego League Challenge, qualifying the girls for participation in the state tournament.

Big Bang team members Brooke Sanders, Tara Tilak Nukala, Advaitha Vemuri and Saba Mendoza were guided by lead coaches Elaina Ashton of Arizona State University and Robab Shakiba of Intel.

They also were mentored by Christie Steward of Intel, Anna Prakash of Education Empowers and Intel) and youth mentor Jenna Carter, a Tempe Prep sophomore.

Founded in 2016, Education Empowers aims to inspire and empower young people by focusing on robotics, coding, STEM/STEAM, and sustainability education “to instill passion for learning and discovery, confidence to enable scholarship and career opportunities,” according to its mission statement.

It partners with Intel, Microsoft, American Airlines and other industries as well as with the Society of Women Engineers, Boys & Girls Clubs, ICAN, Title 1 schools, Girl Scouts and other nonprofits supporting underserved children in STEM. It also is the official STEM program partner for Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus Pine Council.

Education Empowers field 20 teams in the FIRST Lego League competitions.

Brooke Sanders, a freshman at Eastmark High School, comes from a family of engineers. Both her father and uncle are engineers.

She got interested in robotics after her uncle invited her to a laboratory where he conducted experiments using a robot and has been part of Education Empowers team robotics for about five years.

Their innovation project and the app they created “was designed to help people stay active during the pandemic,” said Brooke, adding that her favorite part of the program is coding.

She also teaches coding Boys and Girls Club members and plans on a career in engineering.

Tara Tilak Nukala, an eighth grader at Chandler Online Academy, said the team’s app “allows people to work out in the comfort of their home.”

“Our goal is to make the app as accessible and flexible as possible for different scenarios/people,” she said. “We conducted surveys for additional input on our project. The three main problems that people are unable to work out include: they’re too busy with their schedule, they need a workout buddy, weather/pandemic restrictions and lack of fun while working out.

“We used this information to make our solution as effective as possible. After designing the app, we did another survey to get feedback on our final solution. The feedback came in mostly positive. We’re continuing to improve our solution and find innovative ways to demonstrate it.”

She said her favorite part of the Education Empowers program “is discovering new things and innovating our own creative solutions to hurdles that come up.

“This program’s an effective way that allows people – not just children – to think outside of the box,” Tara added. “I’ve definitely learned to look at things from a different perspective. This program also allows you to get accustomed to a group environment. It has allowed me to get to know my teammates more, and that has made this a beautiful experience.”

Tara is still figuring out her career goals, “though I want to pursue neuroscience or social sciences.”

Advaitha Vemuri, a Chandler Online Academy eighth grader, got started about three years ago with Vex robotics.

After participating in Vex Worlds competitions, she joined the FIRST Logo League.

My team and I made it to Vex Worlds through our STEM project. Two years later, I went into FLL.

She said the Big Bang app “will help people of all kinds to stay active and healthy. It will be accessible, fun, is multiplayer, and has multiple game modes. This taught us programming, teamwork, machine learning, improved our skills in STEM, and so much more.”

Advaitha said that she not only “loved working on programming, building designs and brainstorming,” but also felt her participation on the team yielded great “friendships and bonds.”

Right now, she eyes a career as a criminal Investigator or forensic pathologist.

Saba Mendoza, an eighth grader at ACP Middle School, got interested in robotics when her elementary school started a robotics team. “We had to write an essay on an animal hero for the year and submit it. I made the team,” said Saba.

She explained the team’s app “allows users to login and turn on their camera where the camera will pick up their points from neck to wrist and so on to track their movement, which they will see on screen with an avatar. In this way they should be able to play a series of games we have planned out for the future.”

“Currently we have a robot that can interpret these movements based off of a program we have with the help of industry mentor” Christie Steward, added Saba, who also mentors and teachers at the Boys & Girls Club.

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