Gatorbotics Team 1700 began in a 10-foot-by-11-foot science department closet in December 2004. Less than a dozen girls spent over three hours each day laying down makeshift carpet to protect the floor, soldering in a corner, and building a robot on two knee-high desks.
Today, Gatorbotics has a strong presence at Castilleja School, where we aim to encourage the entire student body to learn STEM. In addition to holding summer Java programming workshops for any interested students, our team pushed for the school to offer engineering-related classes for the last two years, including Computer Science and Engineering Sustainable Solutions, and we are currently working to advance the program through higher level courses. We have also helped host speakers for a “C-STEAM” conference (Castilleja – science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) to show students the real world applications associated with a STEM education and generate an interest in FIRST robotics by presenting at school meetings and open houses for prospective middle school and high school students.
However, the most significant advancement in Castilleja’s STEM education program in the past few years has been the creation of the Bourn Idea Lab. After our mentor Doug Bourn died tragically in the East Palo Alto plane crash in 2010, Castilleja partnered with Gatorbotics to build a lab in his name and as part of the FabLab@School network. Doug played a pivotal role in the development of this team, taking it from 7 girls in a crowded 10 ft by 10 ft closet to a team of 16% of the Upper School in a much bigger space. He was never able to see the Bourn Idea Lab, which today stands as a tribute to all the hard work, pride, and love that Doug Bourn put into the team.
Since its creation, the Bourn Lab has won the Rambus KCI Innovation Award, has been featured on a BBC radio podcast for its innovative nature, and has had a visible impact on the student body. 1700 has nearly doubled in size since the lab’s creation, and weekly open labs give everyone an opportunity to work on individual projects. From laser-cut microscopes to 3-D printed game pieces, classes of every grade use the lab to enforce the idea of hands-on learning. The lab has also given our team the resources and tools for many FIRST seasons to come.
Together with the faculty and staff of the Bourn Lab, we showed off our Rebound Rumble robot at the Bay Area Maker Faire, the “greatest show (and tell) on earth.” With over 100,000 people in attendance, the Maker Faire also included a televised interview with student members of our team, and we spoke about the message of FIRST robotics.