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January 18, 2020

Learning from robots

Photo by Samantha Bengtson
Eight students from Main Street Middle School have advanced to the MESA robotics competition finals in April.

SOLEDAD — Eight Main Street Middle School eighth-graders are advancing to the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Finals in Santa Barbara after competing in the preliminaries March 3.

According to MESA adviser Tamara Garcia, the purpose of the robotics competition is to allow students to use the engineering design process.

Flavio Diaz Torres was part of the first-place robotics team along with Bryan Acero and Hamza Bassal. Diaz-Torres and his teammates built a robot Zumo out of Legos.

“We designed the robot to get under other robots, flip them over, and push them out of the ring,” said Diaz-Torres. “We made the robot and put the shield on it.”

The building of the robot took approximately one week. Students received some help from Soledad High School student Jerrianne Balino.

“My favorite thing about it was the competition itself,” said Acero. “It was fun building the robot and it was fun winning.”

Acero, Diaz-Torres and Bassal will move onto the MESA Finals at the University of California Santa Barbara on April 20 and 21, along with the second-place robotics team consisting of Megan Sacyat and Franscisco Bugarin, and the Prosthetic Arm third-place team, including teammates Remy Ovalle, Larry Gonzales and Michael Pereira.

The Prosthetic Arm Team designed, constructed and operated a simulated prosthetic arm that was tasked with accurately throwing as many ping pong balls into the target zone as fast as possible.

Ovalle said, “Patience is required in order to have a good idea and concentration with your team.”

Gonzales said the events were cool because the students could learn about different things, such as how other competitors made their projects.

“A lot of our parents came from Mexico, so a lot of people stereotypically don’t think that we could do this type of thing,” said Diaz-Torres. “I like how this proves that even Mexican kids can do this type of thing.”

Each MESA team was made up of two to three students. To prepare for the next phase of competition the Prosthetic Arm Team is planning to make modifications to the arm to make it open and close easier and have a better grip.


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