Da Vinci Hack-A-Challenge

Daniel Ramirez (left) and Nolee Bugarin (right)  helping a group of kids with their robots. Photo taken by Hailey Reyes/VP

Daniel Ramirez (left) and Nolee Bugarin (right) helping a group of kids with their robots. Photo taken by Hailey Reyes/VP

Elementary students came together at Da Vinci Schools to participate in a Hack-a-Challenge where they learned about coding and collaborating while also getting a feel of Da Vinci culture.

I wanted to have this event because I heard of a hackathon at the university level, and they trickle down to high schools and junior High’s. But I wanted it to be different. I didn’t want it to be a competition,” said Maria Garcia, a high school Algebra I teacher at Dana Middle School. “I wanted the kids to be exposed to robotics, the science and everything that people did.”

Students were presented with the challenge to try and design a robot that would help keep our beaches clean.  After a detailed presentation from the event staff on the importance of the challenge, students were split up into different groups with student leaders from all three Da Vinci Schools. Two team leaders were assigned a group of attendees and had a chance to get to know them before the event started.

After the presentations from the event staff, students were split up into different groups with two team leaders in charge of their group. The teams took time to get to know each other before starting the project.

“It was pretty fun,” said senior Trevor Ward. “A lot of the kids had a great spirit. They were excited to be there you could tell that some of these kids were excited to start building robots.”

The team leaders had their kids brainstorm how they wanted their robot to move and act as music was being played in the background during the event. They drew out their ideas on a piece of paper for reference.

“We presented the kids with a trash course–which was essentially paper labeled ‘trash’ in specific spots on a floor map–and had them brainstorm how they wanted their GoPiGo to travel across all the markers,” said Macie Legaspi, a junior who ran and organized DVC’s portion of the event. “Our main focus was to get them in the mindset of an engineer: be presented with an issue, and use creative skills and logic to come up with a solution.”

Teams had to strategize how to make their robots get through different obstacles as quickly as possible. The group leaders helped the kids through the process of planning, but the kids were in charge of drawing and calculating. Students also met with leaders from Da Vinci Design to design things to go along with their robots.

“We really helped them design something really cool for their teams’ robot,” said Lili Salvatierra a senior at DVD who helped students design things for their robots. “It was really inspiring to see the kids be super creative and come up with different ideas and themes to go along with their robots.”

Halfway through the event, the kids had a snack break and shortly after got situated with their teams to have test runs based off of their robot strategies.

“We used iterative design so they brainstormed and coded it and then tested the robots,” said Daniel Ramirez a junior who helped lead groups. “From the test, they got feedback and then repeated the process until the robots came out perfect.”

As some teams struggled with their strategies, they decided to make modifications and changes to improve and successfully complete the obstacle course.

“We mainly wanted them to do it on their own so they could understand how to do it,” said Raya Dajani a junior who was a leader for students. “I was happy since we helped them but in the end, after they chose the measurements it showed that these kids had potential and it was really fun teaching them about pathway.”

After running the obstacle course the kid’s parents got a tour around campus to see what their kids did while they were away.

“I love teaching kids and so that’s exactly why I would do it again to be with them and help them learn something because that makes me feel really good,” Ward concluded.