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Gearing Up for Robotics Competition


On a chilly Monday evening, the sound of excited conversation spills out from the Dos Pueblos High School cafeteria, where the seniors of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy have gathered with their mentors to have dinner.

Now in its sixth year, the award-winning Team 1717 comes to the conclusion of its pre-season preparations for the FIRST Robotics build-season, which begins in January. Local industry members have stepped forward to help the students prior to and during the robot build-season. These industry mentors include several mechanical engineers from Allergan Corporation, a local medical device company, professional machinists from companies such as Las Cumbres Observatory, software engineers from Lockheed Martin and FLIR Systems, Inc., and DPEA alumni.

Some members of the Dos Pueblo Engineering Academy Robotics Team.
Click to enlarge photo

Some members of the Dos Pueblo Engineering Academy Robotics Team.

One of the student groups is dedicated to learning Solidworks, a CAD (computer-aided design) software program used to design parts for the robot. During each of the Monday night practices, four mechanical engineers from Allergan teach the team how to use Solidworks by showing them new design techniques and assigning them increasingly complex assignments to complete. Over 400 hours of their personal time has been donated.

The design and framework of Team 1717’s Penguinbot would remain a virtual entity on computer screens if it were not for the combined effort of students and mentors on Team 1717’s Mechanical Team. Mentors for this design team range from UCSB graduate students to professional machinists, and they teach students how to manufacture robot parts with lathes and mills. One subset of the mechanical team specializes in transmissions.

For the first time in its five-year history, Team 1717 has a transmission team. Mr. Amir Abo-Shaeer, the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy’s director, formed the team as a response to last year’s failure of off-the-shelf transmissions. The team has been meeting with Mr. Shaeer to discuss the fundamentals of transmission design and to decide on a strategy for manufacturing. With the new team and his experience and resources, it is unlikely that this Penguinbot will face the same problem as its predecessor.

Team 1717 also has a Software Team of six students who specialize in programming the robot. The programming team works closely with former team members as well as senior software engineers who help teach students the basics of C++ programming and robot code functionality.

With all the preparations in top gear, Team 1717 is eagerly anticipating the arrival of this year’s competition. FIRST’s 2011 game will be released on January 8, kicking off Team 1717’s six-week build-season of chaos, hard work, and excitement.

History of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy: Dos Pueblos High School, in collaboration with Santa Barbara County Education Office Regional Occupation Program (ROP), determined that our community would benefit from the presence of an engineering program designed for students at the secondary level. The DPEA offered its initial course during the 2002-2003 academic school year with the introduction of Engineering 1 and Computer Science 1. During the 2005-2006 school year, the capstone senior-level ROP Robotics course was added, supported by the Santa Barbara County Education Office. The Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy has a broad base of community support, including UCSB, Santa Barbara City College, and local industry partners. The DPEA is a public school program, operating on campus at Dos Pueblos High School.

The DPEA Foundation:

The DPEA Foundation was established by Engineering Academy parents in Fall 2007 to support the Engineering Academy and run the capital campaign to raise funds for a new facility. The DPEA Foundation mission is to enhance the quality of the DPEA learning experience and to facilitate the growth of the academy. For more information on the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation, please see www.dpeaf.org.

Two years ago, Mr. Abo-Shaeer, the DPEA director and head instructor, applied for and was awarded a $3 million state grant to expand the academy. To date, the capital campaign to raise $3 million to match the grant has secured $2,500,000.The Gearing Up! Capital Campaign will raise the remaining $500,000 to purchase state-of-the-art machinery and equipment for the laboratories and machine shops.

Megha Manjunath is a Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy senior.



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