When a school like Boyle Heights’ Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles wants to enter into the high-tech world of competitive robotics, there are three things that are needed to support the project: money, students, and most importantly, skill. When performer Will.i.am’s foundation i.am.angel took the lead on the project, the students committed themselves to the endeavor right away, and longtime contributor to US FIRST Robotics,
Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems (SAS), joined the project to bring in the know-how.
Raytheon recognizes that through its participation in US FIRST it will keep America competitive in the job market. I’ve been a longtime supporter of FIRST Robotics, so I volunteered to lend my expertise to the team as their mentor. When I arrived at Roosevelt to help the team build their robot in just four weeks, I brought my knowledge in electrical and mechanical engineering and methodologies to help guide the team. However, I found that they needed more than that.
I assumed these kids would have it better than I did in high school since it’s 30 years later. What I shared with them is that it is not always about what you know or why you know it, but it’s how you show it. They need to learn to speak confidently and courageously, and make it important to count on a team. Mentoring a team in robotics is rewarding because it aligns what I do for a living with what I do as a volunteer.
I enjoy seeing these students acknowledge that they can be a part of something. I walked into the room at Roosevelt and asked where the shop class is where we’d do the building. That’s when I found out that there is no shop class. Upon hearing that, I got my truck and went and bought some tools; we set up half the space as a building area.
The robot competed in the US FIRST LA Regional competition in March. The winners will compete in the World finals in Missouri this month. (Editor's note: The team did not advance to the World finals, according to Raytheon, as they had technical difficulties in the qualifying round. They are, however, looking forward to competing again next year.)
“Through i.am.angel at Roosevelt, we taught kids how to code and how to build robots -- some of these kids went from not attending school to getting straight As,” said Will.i.am. “Engineers from Raytheon have volunteered hours of time to help these kids learn how to build this year’s robot -- and I couldn’t be prouder to see what they’ve accomplished.”
The best part is seeing the hope in the kids. They developed a team mentality in these four short weeks that they did not have at the beginning. Now they can troubleshoot the issues with the robot and create solutions.
Raymond Plummer works as a program quality manager at Raytheon, in the guidance and navigation systems in the integrated technical program business unit at Raytheon SAS in El Segundo, Calif.