The challenge: Rebound Rumble—a basketball-themed game in which two alliances of three robots each compete to score foam basketballs into four hoops. Alliances have the opportunity to score additional points at the end of each match by balancing their robots on platforms, or “bridges,” in the middle of the field. In addition, movement is hindered by a four-inch tall “bump” over which robots have to maneuver over to cross the field. The D’Penguineers of Team 1717 hope to build a state-of-the art robot that not only performs well in the competitions, but also reflects the many hours of dedication the team put into their creation. The Press Relations team took some time to interview their classmates and see where they are in the build season.

Left to right: Laura Voyen, Esther Nam, Shen Meinhold, and Nick Zurlinden discuss designs with their mentor, Stan Reifel

Despite being in the program for three years, Shandeep Ahdi “never expected [the build season] to be like this with so many sleepless nights.” She used skills essential to solving real-world problems when her team “tested out prototypes and was given scenarios where anything could happen, and we had to adapt our design to the situation.” She remarks that “nothing is perfect the first time, so we had to make multiple prototypes of every mechanism.”

Some engineering students are beginning to feel the pressures of the looming February 21st deadline, when the team will have to stop work on the robot. According to Nick Zurlinden, a moment of brief celebration broke out “when the Internet turned back on and we were able to look at our parts list. We were unable to retrieve any of our files because we could not connect to our server.” Despite the setback, Nick feels that they are still on track to complete the robot, remarking that “we are close to the end of the design phase and about to start building our shooter.”

Sophie D'Arcy and Mark Beers working with machine shop mentor, Terry Hart

One dedicated D’Penguineer, Lane Fuller, is well-known for being the last person out the door. When asked about the source of his motivation, he casually replied, “My drive? I don’t know. It’s fun and we are all really dedicated to making the best robot possible.”

For others, the last few weeks have been a series of triumphs. Sepideh Parhami remembers that a breakthrough moment was “developing our first prototypes to lower the ramp and get over the bump.” When asked about the robot’s success at competitions, she replied with “What robot? It doesn’t exist yet, but I love it already.” Despite the early successes, Sepideh remarks that “we’re already at week five, but there’s still so much more to do. This is just the beginning.”

Laura Voyen shares the same sentiments. She insists that “the robot will get done. Last Sunday, I spent eight and a half hours straight in the shop and it didn’t even faze me.” Despite her focus, she states that “the last week will be crazy. We’re constantly tired, but we want to mentally and physically be able to build the robot.”

But for Jake Moghtader, it is not just about building a robot. He remarks that “the robotics atmosphere is great. We really interact as one large family at dinner and team meetings. He believes that Team 1717 has really bonded together by “helping each other with our failures, supporting each other in solving problems, and watching each others’ successes.”

The lessons learned in the Engineering Academy don’t lose their effect after graduation. Despite planning on studying jazz trombone at a music school, Mariel Bildsten feels that it has taught her how to “work diligently on a focused project, as well as have the “opportunity to do a lot of public speaking and interact with other members of the community.” She states that the Engineering Academy isn’t just for those passionate in the STEM fields. On the contrary, she believes that the great thing about the Engineering Academy is that “you have people that are interested in a lot of different things that can all come together to work on a project. I’m having a great time even though I’m not going to pursue a career in engineering.”

But for Parker Olson, “engineering is simply applied magic.”

About the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy:

Dos Pueblos High School (DPHS), in collaboration with the 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. The capstone senior-level ROP Robotics course, which is supported by the Santa Barbara County Education Office, was added in 2005. 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, which is located at 7266 Alameda Avenue in Goleta, California. For more information on the Engineering Academy, please see

About the DPEA Foundation:

Engineering Academy parents established the DPEA Foundation in the fall of 2007 in order to run the Capital Campaign to raise $3,000,000 for a new facility, which was reached in October of 2011. The DPEA Foundation mission is to enhance the quality of the DPEA learning experience and to facilitate the growth of the Academy by raising the necessary funds and by creating and managing systems and structures to support the program. For more information on the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation, please see

About FIRST Robotics:

The FIRST Robotics Competition is an exciting, multinational competition that teams professionals and young people together to solve an engineering design problem in an intense and competitive way. The program is a life-changing, career-molding experience and a lot of fun. Each year the competition reaches more than 60,000 students on over 26,000 teams in competitions held across the USA and in other parts of the world. The teams come from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the U.K., and every state in the U.S. The competitions are high-tech spectator sporting events: the result of lots of focused brainstorming, real-world teamwork, dedicated mentoring, project timelines, and deadlines. For more information on FIRST Robotics, please see


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