STEAM Night Energized by Robotics, Lego Fun

La Cañada Flintridge resident Brandon Cipes, his son Everett and STEM World’s Joe Huprich listen to LCHS student Nathan Yun talk about his robot. Yun belongs to the Golden Gears robotics team.
Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
La Cañada Flintridge resident Brandon Cipes, his son Everett and STEM World’s Joe Huprich listen to LCHS student Nathan Yun talk about his robot. Yun belongs to the Golden Gears robotics team.

Robotics took over the final STEAM night of the La Cañada Unified School District’s academic year.
A district-sponsored event at Palm Crest Elementary on Monday featured hands-on activities with robotics at two of several stations. STEAM, the educational concept that stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, is aimed at giving students the tools to succeed in all of those disciplines, and some of the stations showed how they sometimes overlap.
“We’re super big on recruiting or giving a lot of younger kids opportunities in robotics,” said Nathan Yun, a 16-year-old junior at La Cañada High School, who is on the Golden Gears 9881 robotics team made up of LCHS students.
His Golden Gears teammate Ethan Cohen added that the squad, which recently competed in Houston in an event that included two other LCHS robotics teams, composed almost entirely of juniors with a few sophomores and seniors, and is looking for new blood.
“At this kind of rate, our team doesn’t have a very long life expectancy,” said Cohen, who wore a black jacket with “Golden Gears” in gold lettering as he displayed the group’s robot. “We’re really big on trying to find new talent because eventually, when we graduate out of the program, we’re going to try to have some younger kids take over the team.”
More than 30 youth attended the event, in which Pasadena-based technology workshop STEM World manned four stations offering such attractions as coding, Legos and robots.
“My angle is I love science, but I feel science touches your everyday world,” said Amy Nespor, the LCUSD’s community science liaison. “Everything you do is related to science. Just to get kids to think about that. What’s in shampoo? What’s in soap? Just having people realize if you’re baking, you’re doing chemistry and math, and putting that spin on it.”
Nespor said she learned about STEM World while striking up a conversation with the group during the Los Angeles County Science and Engineering Fair. Nespor said she asked the group’s members if they would want to present their information at PCR, because she tries to have a variety of people and activities for STEAM nights.
“Obviously, this is robotics, this is technology, this is engineering,” Nespor said.
La Cañada Flintridge resident Brandon Cipes and his 6-year-old son, Everett, were among the attendees who checked out the robots. Both were fascinated by the many movements of the Golden Gears’ robot.
“There aren’t a whole lot of schools you can go to where they’re building robots,” Cipes said as Everett became engrossed in the robot. “They just talked about 3-D printing and CNC milling machines to build this thing. I can’t image it’s that easy to come by at a lot of other places. It’s very, very cool and it’s clearly getting his attention. If that’s working at 6 p.m., that’s great. That’s all I can ask for.”
Everett described the robot as “way cool” and of its many movements said “I didn’t know that it could do that.”
Yun said the device has to be controlled using an Android phone, which is required from the organization to which the Golden Gears belong — the nonprofit For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, of FIRST, which sponsored the Houston competition. The phone takes information from a controller and, through a Wi-Fi signal, will send it to a phone that is on the robot. That phone is connected to large black box, which is called an “expansion,” on the robot that then communicates to the motor to direct the robot’s movement.
“It’s kind a long process, but it happens pretty much instantaneously,” Yun said.
Besides robots, the program also featured a large, clear container of Legos with which students would construct buildings, thus mixing science with art and creativity.
“This is especially for those kids who say, ‘I don’t like science,’” said STEM World curriculum director Josue Hernandez. “There’s a lot of art in building a bridge and a lot of art in building buildings. This can get the creative juices flowing for every student.”
Simone Maxwell, a PCR 3rd-grader, was at the Lego station, where she had constructed a multicolored building in Hernandez’s presence. He asked whether it involved architecture and math and she said yes to both.
“You were measuring with a ruler and using math,” Hernandez said as she smiled. “Art also goes into a building … there’s a lot that goes into it.”
Simone said the station and event were “very fun.”
“I like building Legos and the challenge of it,” she said. “But I’m more into coding.”
Students could also code on computers, where they would work on colorful activities called “Make Me Fly” where they would choose a character they liked and “play” it.
STEM World offers weeklong summer camps that begin June 10 and run through Aug. 16 from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. To get more information or to register, visit stemworld.net or call (626) 247-4347.

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