Road to St. Louis

The Central High School RoboLancers — the student-run robotics program of Central High School in Philadelphia — is urgently seeking your financial support to attend the Robotics World Championship in St. Louis from April 22 to April 25. Here is a link to our gofundme campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/robolancers2015

The RoboLancers champion science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in our public schools and have become a shining example of what students in a challenging urban setting can do when given the opportunity. Since its founding in 1999, the RoboLancers have grown from five students to a multi-faceted program of more than 112 students. It is now the largest extracurricular activity at Central High School, one of Philadelphia’s most academically rigorous public magnet schools.

This year, the RoboLancers were one of two teams selected from the 122 teams in the Mid-Atlantic Region to win the Chairman’s Award, the FIRST robotics organization’s highest honor. This award is given to the team that most exemplifies the spirit of the organization and in recognition of its work promoting science and technical education among high schoolers. In addition to the Chairman’s Award, the team has won four Engineering Inspiration Awards over the past three years, which further recognizes our outreach and educational activities.

The RoboLancers’ membership is drawn from Central High School’s extremely diverse population. Of the more than 2,200 students who attend the school, 30 percent are African-American, 33 percent are Asian, 9 percent are Latino, and nearly 60 percent come from families that are classified as “economically disadvantaged.” The RoboLancers mainly compete against suburban and private schools with significantly more resources, yet the team thrives despite significant financial adversity. Our outstanding performance has made us eligible for the FIRST Robotics World Championship, one of the most challenging high school robotics competitions in the nation.

Teams around the world had six weeks to design and build a 120 pound robot from scratch that competes with other team’s robots by performing a variety of tasks. The design, construction, programming and operation of the robot provide students with critical hands-on experiences they can’t get in the classroom. The opportunities afforded by the robotics competition spark student interest in engineering and help prepare them for college and careers in STEM fields.

Yet the RoboLancers are much more than a competitive robotics team. At a time when Philadelphia public schools have suffered devastating budget cuts involving the layoffs of thousands of teachers, the shuttering of dozens of schools, and drastic program and classroom cuts, including the defunding of robotics programs throughout the city, the RoboLancers have stepped up and become the lynchpin of STEM education in Philadelphia. The team mentors other robotics programs across the city, providing technical support, physical space, and tools for other teams.

The RoboLancers also host several critical robotics events, including workshops and competitions for elementary, middle, and high school students from around the city. The RoboLancers also partner with the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab to host the Philadelphia Robotics Expo, an all-day event to promote engineering and science education to more than 400 children through student-run workshops, demonstrations and programs. Supporting the RoboLancers does not just benefit students at Central High School, but thousands of students across the city who participate in the RoboLancers’ outreach program.

Our annual budget of more than $30,000 has been raised exclusively through an aggressive student-run sponsorship campaign and the support of the Associated Alumni of Central High School and the Central High School Home and School Association. Yet the RoboLancers’ selection for the World Robotics Championship means the team must raise an additional $25,000-$35,000 to pay for event registration, hotel accommodations, meals, and transportation of students and equipment to and from St. Louis. And we must raise this money in less than two weeks.

Your assistance is urgently needed to ensure that this extraordinary team of high schoolers will have the chance to compete in the FIRST Robotics World Championship from April 22 to April 25. Thank you in advance for your support of STEM education in Philadelphia.

Central High Robotics Team Honored for Educational Outreach Work

Contact: Michael Johnson, RoboLancers Coach, RoboLancers@gmail.com, 267-666-0246.

UPPER DARBY, PA, MARCH 29, 2015 — The Central High School RoboLancers won the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) District Chairman’s Award at a competition at Upper Darby High School over the weekend, the most prestigious award given at that competition. The award identifies the RoboLancers as a “model team” that has worked over the last five years to grow the robotics program within Central High School from 10 student members to over 100 while also inspiring thousands of students of all ages throughout the region to explore STEM fields.

In a school district hard hit by budget cuts that have resulted in sharp reductions in science and engineering classes and programs in recent years, the RoboLancers have worked continuously to foster engineering and science education by mentoring younger teams in the city and hosting events for all levels of the FIRST program, from elementary to high school. They also host the annual Philly Robotics Expo (coming up on April 20 at the Singh Nanotechnology Center at the University of Pennsylvania), where hundreds of schoolchildren take robotics classes taught by the RoboLancers students and have the opportunity to meet and interact with other robotics teams and companies who come to exhibit their robots.

To compete for the Chairman’s Award, teams submit an essay and a short video explaining the impact of their team, then they make a presentation and are interviewed by a panel of judges. This year’s presentation team is comprised of seniors Stanley Umeweni and Maria Shayegan and junior Evan Aretz. You can view their video at: http://youtu.be/MgiFTv7zwWM

The RoboLancers FRC team will compete at one more district-level event on April 3–4 at North Brunswick High School in North Brunswick, NJ, before joining other qualified teams at the Mid-Atlantic Robotics Regional Championship on April 9–11 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.

In addition to presenting before a panel of judges in hopes of winning the Chairman’s Award for the whole mid-Atlantic region, the RoboLancers will continue to compete in the robot competition itself. The RoboLancers, like all FRC teams, had just six weeks, starting in January, to design and build their robots to play this year’s game, “Recycle Rush.” Objectives of the game include stacking large plastic totes, placing recycle bins on top of those stacks, and placing pool noodle “litter” in the recycle bins. During the first 15 seconds of each round, robots operate autonomously, following commands that the students have pre-programmed. Then for the remainder of the match, students operate the robots in real time via remote control.

All FIRST tournaments are free and open to the public. For more information on the FRC district tournaments and regional championship, see http://www.midatlanticrobotics.com/event-schedules/.

FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization founded by Dean Kamen which seeks to inspire students from K-12th grade to pursue and lead STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. Competitions such as FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition), FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge), and FLL (FIRST Lego League) blends the engagement of science and technology and the value of teamwork through friendly competitions with other FIRST teams while giving students rewarding experiences that follow them to whatever field they choose to pursue.

The Central High School RoboLancers is a FIRST Robotics Team founded in 1999. Starting with a small classroom of students, the team has now has grown to over 100 members. In addition to competing in multiple levels of competitive robotics events, the RoboLancers have helped mentor many teams across the Philadelphia region, including at Girls High School, Independence Charter School, G.W. Carver High School for Engineering and Science, and Martin Luther King High School, to raise awareness for the need of STEM education and occupations within Philadelphia and around the world. The RoboLancers have won many previous awards such as the Engineering Inspiration Award and traveled to the 2013 FIRST World Championship in St. Louis. The RoboLancers are growing, not only in their team but in their impact in the community; this Chairman’s Award is proof.

Special thanks to our wonderful sponsors: The Associated Alumni of Central High School, The Central High School Home and School Association, McKean Defense, Comcast, PTC, P’unk Avenue/Ignite Philly, Bresslergroup, and Johnsonville.

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Justin Glazman, Jonah Getz, and Mechanical Lead Kamal Carter in the pit

Central High Robotics Teams Head to State and Regional Competitions

Contact: Michael Johnson, RoboLancers Coach, RoboLancers@gmail.com, 267-666-0246.

PHILADELPHIA, FEBRUARY 23, 2015 — Central High School’s two FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics teams will join hundreds of students from across Pennsylvania, ranging from 7th–12th grade, at Millersville University on February 28th for the 2015 FTC Pennsylvania State Championship Tournament. In this year’s exciting game, “Cascade Effect,” 36 teams will face off against each other in an alliance format. Winners of the FTC Pennsylvania Championship will advance to the Eastern Super-Regional — and finally to the World Championship. Off the field, teams will also compete for the Inspire Award and other judged awards.

Five Philadelphia teams that competed at the Philadelphia League Championship at Central High School on February 7th qualified to go on to this state championship. These are the Central High School RoboLancers Gold and Crimson teams, the Northeast High School N.E.R.D.S, the Edison High School Robo Owls, and the Freire Charter School RoboDragons.

For months, the robotics teams have been hard at work designing, building, and programming their robots from scratch. The robots are remotely operated and are constructed by students using robotics system kits with basic tools and equipment utilizing professional mechanical techniques and creativity. “Cascade Effect” involves 160 white plastic balls with robots seeking to score points by placing the balls into rolling goals.

The Central High School RoboLancers also compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC)—the highest level of competition offered by FIRST. The RoboLancers FRC team is scheduled to compete at three district-level events:

  • March 13–14 at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 500 W Willow Grove Ave, Philadelphia

  • March 28–29 at Upper Darby High School, 8201 Lansdowne Avenue, Upper Darby, PA, and

  • April 3–4 at North Brunswick High School, 98 Raider Rd, North Brunswick Township, NJ

FRC teams had just six weeks, starting in January, to design and build their robots to play this year’s game, “Recycle Rush.” Objectives of the game include stacking large plastic totes, placing recycle bins on top of those stacks, and placing pool noodle “litter” in the recycle bins. During the first 15 seconds of each round, robots operate autonomously, following commands that the students have pre-programmed. Then for the remainder of the match, students operate the robots in real time via remote control.

All FIRST tournaments are free and open to the public. For more information on the FTC state championship see http://www.ftcpenn.org/. For more information on the FRC district tournaments, see http://www.midatlanticrobotics.com/event-schedules/.

FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization founded by Dean Kamen which seeks to inspire students from K-12th grade to pursue and lead STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. Competitions such as FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition), FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge), and FLL (FIRST Lego League) blends the engagement of science and technology and the value of teamwork through friendly competitions with other FIRST teams while giving students rewarding experiences that follow them to whatever field they choose to pursue.

 

The Central High School RoboLancers is a FIRST Robotics Team founded in 1999. Starting with a small classroom of students, the team has now has grown to over 100 members. In addition to competing in multiple levels of competitive robotics events, the RoboLancers have helped mentor many teams across the Philadelphia region, including Girls High School, Independence Charter School, G.W. Carver High School for Engineering and Science, and Martin Luther King High School to raise awareness for the need of STEM education and occupations within Philadelphia and around the world. The RoboLancers have won many awards such as the Engineering Inspiration Award and traveled to the 2013 FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

Special thanks to our wonderful sponsors: The Associated Alumni of Central High School, The Central High School Home and School Association, McKean Defense, Comcast, PTC, P’unk Avenue/Ignite Philly, Bresslergroup, and Johnsonville.

FTC Philadelphia Championship

Hundreds of students across Philadelphia and the region, ranging from 4th–12th grade, will converge on Central High School Feb. 7 for the city-wide robotics championship match. The teams will compete in the 2015 FIRST Tech Challenge, “Cascade Effect.” In this exciting game, 15 teams will face off against each other in an alliance format. Winners of the FTC Philadelphia Championship will advance to the State Championship — and finally to the World Championship. Other awards include the PTC Design Award, the Winning Alliance Award, and the Finalist Alliance Award.

 

For weeks prior to the championship, robotics teams have been hard at work designing, building, and programming their robots from scratch. The game, “Cascade Effect,” is quite challenging, requiring teams to strategize in order to score the most amount of points. Teams have spent hours after school strategizing and creating a robot fit to compete. Central High School’s RoboLancers  hosted last year’s FTC Philadelphia Championship with hundreds of people in attendance to support their favorite robotics teams. Crowds are expected to be even larger this year.

 

The robots are remotely operated and are constructed by students using robotics system kits with basic tools and equipment utilizing professional mechanical techniques and creativity. “Cascade Effect” involves 160 white plastic balls with robots seeking to score points by placing the balls into rolling goals. The team with the most amount of points advances to the next round.

 

Teams from the following schools are scheduled to compete: Central High School, Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, G.W. Carver High School, Freire Charter School, Frankford High School, Edison High School, Abraham Lincoln High School, Northeast High School, Murrell Dobbins/Allegheny West Foundation, Academy at Palumbo, and Olney Charter High School

 

FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization founded by Dean Kamen which seeks to inspire students from K-12th grade to pursue and lead STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. Competitions such as FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition), FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge), and FLL (FIRST Lego League) blends the engagement of science and technology and the value of teamwork through friendly competitions with other FIRST teams while giving students rewarding experiences that follow them to whatever field they choose to pursue.

 

The Central High School RoboLancers is a FIRST Robotics Team founded in 1999 originally starting with a small classroom of students and now has grown to over 100 active members. The RoboLancers have participated in robotics events at multiple levels and have helped mentor many teams across the Philadelphia region, such as Girls High School, Independence Charter School, and Martin Luther King High School to raise awareness for the need of STEM education and occupations within Philadelphia and around the world. The RoboLancers have won many awards such as the Engineering Inspiration Award and have traveled to the 2013 FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri.


Special thanks to our wonderful sponsors: The Associated Alumni of Central High School, The Central High School Home and School Association, PTC, McKean, Comcast, Ignite Philly, Bresslergroup, Johnsonville, and P’unk Avenue.  

FTC Philadelphia Championship

On February 7th, Central High School will be hosting the FTC Philadelphia Championship. The event will be running from 7 AM to 6 PM.  Robotics teams from around the city will be competing for numerous awards and hope to advance to States. Last year Central had hosted the FTC Philadelphia Championship and many people had attended to watch the competition.

This year we are hoping for more people to come and support the teams. We hope that you can come attend this exciting event.

Go Crimson #6676 and Gold #5320!

Book and Canned Goods Drive

The RoboLancers are currently holding a canned goods and book drive. Located in various locations of Central High School there will be bins and boxes. The bins will be used for the canned goods while the boxes are for books. However, textbooks or damaged books cannot be donated.

The boxes and bins are not plain and dull. The Marketing team has been working hard in decorating them with various designs and by putting up posters around the school. As part of Marketing I had fun in drawing and decorating the boxes. I’m hoping that people will be donating.

We are hoping that we will be able to exceed 900 lbs of books, which was last year’s amount by having everyone in the team donate.

The book drive will end on October 18th and the canned goods drive will end on November 1st.

 

RoboLancers Platform to Save Robotics Programs and Public Education in Philadelphia

We, the members of Central High School’s RoboLancers, FIRST Robotics Team #321, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the “RoboLancers”), recognize the impact of inadequate funding to public schools and the deficits caused by the budget crisis in education.  The current budget crisis negatively impacts every public school student and educator in the City of Philadelphia.  As an organization affected by this crisis, we wish to make a statement to our School District and our local and state government:

WHEREAS, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), the School Reform Commission (SRC), Mayor Michael Nutter, and Governor Tom Corbett have created and/or otherwise facilitated a $300 million deficit through budget cuts, mismanagement, and squandering of federal funds; and

WHEREAS, this deficit has forced Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. (Dr. Hite), to place extreme austerity measures into effect in the public schools within the SDP; and

WHEREAS, the SRC has all but expressed its intention to dismantle the School District, by “[closing] 40 schools next year and an additional six every year thereafter until 2017,” leaving only “20 to 30 schools [to] be placed into ‘achievement networks’ where public and private groups would compete to manage the networks” (Thomas Knudsen, Chief Recovery Officer for the SRC, May 2013);

WHEREAS, these extreme austerity measures have led to the following conditions at Central High School, as well as most schools in the SDP:

  • Oversized classrooms with as many as 47 students per class;
  • A lack of guidance counselors, nurses, non-teaching assistants, librarians, assistant principals, school operations officers, and secretaries;
  • Effective and beloved teachers being laid off;
  • Teachers being forced to teach outside of their appointed area;
  • Support staff (deans, department chairs, activity sponsors) being forced to teach full course loads, eliminating their only form of compensation and their ability to complete their duties;
  • Classes being held in auditoriums;
  • The elimination of the mentally gifted program;
  • Insufficient textbooks at the start of the year;
  • A closed and therefore inaccessible library; and
  • The ending of many programs exclusive to Central High School, including the advanced research program and the incredibly popular shadow program;

WHEREAS, Dr. Hite, the SDP, and the SRC are negotiating with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) for the following concessions by the teachers:

  • A longer school day;
  • The elimination of preparation periods;
  • The elimination of a 33 minimum class size; and
  • Pay cuts as high as 13% for overworked teachers;

WHEREAS, all funding for robotics-related programs was eliminated in 2011;

WHEREAS, the students who make up the RoboLancers have become disenfranchised by the actions being implemented by the SDP, SRC, the Mayor of Philadelphia and the Governor of Pennsylvania, which actions can only be described as failures and which the media so emphatically states will cause the demise of public schools in Philadelphia;

WHEREAS, the RoboLancers recognize that these decisions have already led to a reduction in robotics programs in Philadelphia public schools and could lead to their complete eradication.

WHEREAS, the RoboLancers believe the education that students receive in project-based programs like robotics provide opportunities for a more in-depth, comprehensive understanding of subjects than traditional preparation for standardized exams like the Pennsylvania Keystone Tests.  In programs like these, students gain:

  • self-confidence;
  • leadership ability;
  • the ability to work in a team;
  • public speaking;
  • a strong sense of achievement;
  • lifelong enthusiasm for learning;
  • business, marketing, organization, and time management skills;
  • real analytical problem-solving experience;
  • achievement of Common Core Standards; and
  • an appreciation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields; and

WHEREAS, programs such as robotics should be the backbone of a 21st century education.  In Dr. Hite’s words, “[T]his (the RoboLancers’ robotics) program is the ‘perfect’ lesson plan because it engages children in the types of things that will face them within a global economy.”  In President Barack Obama’s words, “[W]e need to encourage our kids and invest in their education. We need to give them the chance to become the next generation of scientists and engineers and entrepreneurs.”

NOW, THEREFORE, the RoboLancers of Central High School hereby announce their support for a four-point formula, which is set out below, that is absolutely a requirement for the sustainability of their program, programs like theirs, and, more importantly, quality education in the City of Philadelphia.  The following immediate steps must be taken in the contract negotiation process with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers:

1.  The extension of the school day must occur only if complete freedom is given to teachers and students to participate in extracurricular activities during that extended time;

2.  STEM robotics funding must be reinstated by the SDP, including support for competitions, training for students and coaches, late night transpasses for students similar to that which is provided to members of sports teams, and weekend building access;

3.  The incorporation of the benefits of project-based learning activities in any new teacher evaluation system, especially where it affects student achievement that is not measurable on a standardized exam; and

4.  The accommodation and compensation for robotics coaches, including free use of preparation periods and extracurricular pay commensurate with athletics’ coaches.

FURTHERMORE, the following serious issues with far-reaching significance must be addressed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to provide the power and resources to the SDP necessary to revitalize public education in the City of Philadelphia:

1.  Establish an elected Board of Education in Philadelphia and repeal Act 46 – Philadelphia is the only municipality in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which does not have a city-controlled Board of Education.  State government has failed to improve Philadelphia public schools since Act 46 was passed in 1998, when control of the district was transferred to the Commonwealth in the form of the School Reform Commission and collective bargaining was threatened.  The RoboLancers support State Representative Mark Cohen’s proposal to establish an elected Board of Education in Philadelphia.

2.  Establish Fair Funding Legislation – There is extreme inequity in the per-pupil funding in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Many suburbs surrounding Philadelphia spend between 150% and 200% more per pupil than SDP schools.  It is the job of the state government to assure equitable funding throughout the state to prevent separate and unequal education.  The RoboLancers support the efforts of Mayor Michael Nutter and State Representative Jim Roebuck in this regard.

3.  Other Reforms – In addition to the foregoing specific remedies, the RoboLancers suggest our government leaders focus on a variety of additional measures, which would translate into providing additional funding for the SDP:

        a.      Land Value Tax Reform – Land Value Tax Reform is a developing movement in the country that has caused economic growth in many municipalities, including Pittsburgh, Altoona, and Harrisburg.  Land Value Tax Reform would inspire development of vacant land, shift the tax burden from the middle class, and provide additional resources for education.  Philadelphia must take control of its finances in order to alleviate dependence on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The RoboLancers support the Center for the Study of Economics and their proposal for Land Value Tax Reform.

        b.      Tax Gas and Oil Production – Except for an “impact fee” which Governor Corbett promises is not a real tax, Pennsylvania, the only state with huge deposits of oil and gas, does not impose a tax on gas and oil production.  Therefore, according to a January 2013 PEW report, Pennsylvania is bringing in far less revenue from drilling than its rivals.  Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2014 gubernatorial race, wants to tax natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale at 5%, using the money to invest in education and transportation infrastructure.  The RoboLancers support a tax on natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale, using the revenue to invest in education.

c.      Moratorium on Charter School Expansion – In April 2013, Dr. Hite stated:  “It would be irresponsible for the District to endorse charter expansion while asking our principals to do the impossible with school budgets.”  Despite a 2010 RAND study and a 2009 CREDO study showing charter schools perform no better on average than traditional public schools and cost taxpayers the same amount per pupil, charter funding in Philadelphia for 2014 will top $700 million and accounts for about 30 percent of the SDP’s operating budget.  Charter schools have expanded well beyond their original chartered populations, pulling resources from the SDP as they do.  The RoboLancers support a moratorium on charter school expansion.

Your support is requested for the RoboLancers’ platform because the alternative is unimaginable both for the present and future students of Philadelphia and indeed all of its citizens.  By affixing your signature below you are showing your support of public education, for which the RoboLancers are very grateful.

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The RoboLancers

Who We Are

The RoboLancers are a student-operated, adult-mentored robotics program based out of Central High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The program was founded in 1999 as FIRST Robotics Team #321 and included five students from the school. Since then, the program has evolved into a multi-faceted organization of more than 60 students and 9 adult mentors that – with a $20,000 per year budget – competes in two to three competitions, hosts various STEM training and outreach programs around the city, and has become a shining example of what students in a struggling urban setting can do if given the opportunity.  The RoboLancers received three Engineering Inspiration awards last year for their work inspiring students to enter STEM fields.  They also traveled to the FIRST World Championships for the first time in 2013.

What We Do

The RoboLancers provide students with a complete immersion in STEM problem solving.  Students are given hands-on engineering experience as they work in teams to solve electrical, mechanical, and programming problems. Students work with solid modeling programs, programming languages, web design software, and control systems. The students themselves then use this gained knowledge to inspire other students in Philadelphia to become interested in STEM fields through various school and community events; including hosting the Philly Robotics Expo, mentoring at FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Lego League (FLL) events, building robots for theater groups, participating in a documentary about high school robotics teams, and demonstrating their robots at district schools and STEM awareness events.

Our Goals

A primary goal of the RoboLancers is to work with the students in Central High School, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), and the greater Philadelphia area to inspire their involvement in STEM and computer science fields.  The program is unique in that it empowers those disadvantaged and underrepresented populations on a small scale in order that they themselves may engage those populations on a larger scale.  Other program goals include the following:

  • To inspire every individual that builds with, learns from, cheers for, or hears about the team to have confidence in themselves and in their future
  • To spark students’ interest in STEM and computer science within the School District and the City of Philadelphia, and ultimately produce young adults who contribute to the community, country, and world in STEM fields
  • To prepare students for enrollment in higher education with an interest toward obtaining engineering, computer science, and other STEM related degrees
  • To foster a positive self-image, leadership skills, teamwork and moral behavior among Philadelphia students
  • To transform the image of Philadelphia to one which is a hub for advanced technology through various partnerships with local businesses and universities

 

BY SIGNING THIS FORM YOU ARE SUPPORTING OUR PLATFORM.