Students turn lives around by building robots

Students at Apollo High School in east San Jose building a robot.
April 2, 2013 7:58:52 PM PDT
The lives of a group of students, who were on the verge of dropping out of high school, have been transformed as they learn how to design and build robots. In fact, the kids from east San Jose are gearing up to compete on a national level.

Wenceslao Patino is passionate about building robots. He and his classmates have just completed Apollo 1 and it is now ready for competition.

The students were given a video of what their robot is expected to do at the FIRST Championship -- it must engage in a game while trying to score points. They had to build their robot in six weeks.

Michaela Brant is the teacher of the program, called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST).

"A lot of these students weren't in school before they came to Apollo and now with the addition of the robotics team, they're here every day after school," she said.

Everyone has a role. Erika Saenz has learned a lot about electronics.

"I'm known for batteries. I switch the batteries and change them and put them together," she said.

Apollo High is a continuation school in east San Jose. The robotics program has inspired students to not only to stay in school, but also consider pursuing a career in engineering or other high tech fields.

Aisha Velasquez says it has been inspiring to meet other female engineers.

"They told me how they, how a lot of people are impressed because they are women. So I can really relate to that," she said.

The students practice using a prototype of the robots they are going to use in the competition because, they can't use the one they have completed until the day of the contest.

The competition will feature 400 other teams and will take place in St. Louis. For some of the students, it will be the first time they board a plane.

"Yes, I never even went to an airport, yeah," said Velasquez

Microsoft, Google, Comcast and Hewlett Packard have made it possible for them to attend the competition.

"We didn't think any of this was possible for us. We didn't think it was possible for us to be these kind of students," said Patino. "You know, the students who stay after school later than others, because we were the kind of students that hardly came to school at all."

The national competition takes place later this month.


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