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CB Robotics: From Rubble To Riches

Robotics has been a part of Christian Brothers for almost a decade now, and there have been many forces that have molded robotics at Christian Brothers into what it is today. Mr. Danny Delgado (’79), a science teacher as well as the head coach of our Cross Country team, has been actively involved with the […]

Robotics has been a part of Christian Brothers for almost a decade now, and there have been many forces that have molded robotics at Christian Brothers into what it is today.

Mr. Danny Delgado (’79), a science teacher as well as the head coach of our Cross Country team, has been actively involved with the robotics club since its conception.

“There were some kids that were coming from the Davis area, St. James of Davis, and they wanted to start a robotics program and needed someone to run it, so I took the position,” he says.

Even though Mr. Delgado was not the most knowledgeable when it comes to robotics and engineering, he and his students have managed to propel the program beyond heights anyone thought imaginable.

“[The club is] definitely student driven — it’s been that way since the beginning,” he says. “I’m not an engineer by trade — I’m just a kind of fix it yourself kind of guy at home. I was basically the [students’] mentor. A lot of the times it;s the parents who are more involved and knowledgeable about building and other things, and I would take a hands off [approach].”

Mr. Delgado has seen the steady increase of promise and talent exhibited from the robotics students.

“The first couple of years went okay — we went to a couple competitions and didn’t do very well. Then the next year we improved, and by the third year, we were going to Regional Championships, which was really really great” he says.

However, what really catalyzed the robotics program, were a few technology studs who took the program by storm — namely, Harrison Chu (’21).

Harrison has been a part of robotics at Christian Brothers since freshman year and has been a part of it every year since. He was originally invited to join by the senior robotics veterans.

“I’ve been interested in robotics and engineering since 5th grade when I started building Lego robots and competing with them,” Harrison says. “But to be honest, my love for building stuff started when I was a little kid because I loved building with Legos.”

Mr. Delgado says that when Harrison joined, “he had already been heavily involved with robotics ” and introduced the “M.A.T.E” underwater robotics and stem program. Today, Harrison is one of the co-Presidents of Christian Brothers robotics and leads the hardware team.

“I work with the teachers and other students to keep the hardware parts of the robot on track as well as give updates to others in order to coordinate efforts in our robot.”

Another one of Christian Brothers robotics Titans is Kamron Soltani (’21), who heads manufacturing for the robotics team.

“I got into robotics after I joined the engineering program at Christian Brothers. During my freshman year, I was really interested in 3D printing and saw how I could help with manufacturing parts for the robotics team, so I joined.”

Kamron’s technological savvy and extraordinary ability to help create robots stems from his love of engineering.

“I have always loved engineering from an early age, as I occasionally loved to tinker with electronics, from disassembling and repairing iPhones to later on 3D designing and printing objects” the senior says.

Kamron specializes in integrating software into hardware, and making parts for the robot. “This could include a hook, a claw, a shroud, and the one design we have been trying to make is a 3D printed blade, but have had no success so far,” he says.

Many robotics students from the Class of 2021 like Kamron and Harrison have, in a sense, resurrected the robotics program since they have been at Christian Brothers.

“During Freshman year, the team was led by seniors who were more focused on college applications and other stuff so Harrison, Carter Schmidt (’21), and a few other people decided to resurrect the club and build a robot in under three weeks before the competition.” Kamron said. “That year we won third place and we learned from our mistakes and built a better robot the following year.”

A lot of the other robotics programs that they have to face in competition come from the Bay Area, and often have large sponsorships from companies like Google, Yahoo, or Apple, so it is amazing that they are able to succeed against that level of competition.

“Jesuit High School alone probably puts up about $10,000 or more a year for their robotics program, and we put up maybe $3,500,” Mr Delgado says. “They have classes designed around robotics, and ours is still an after school project.”

Despite the lack of funding, Christian Brothers Robotics has made it to the podium several times in large competitions.

“In 2018, against all odds, we somehow won 3rd place at the Northern California Regional competition where we were up against high school teams from the Bay Area and across Northern California,” Harrison says.

In 2019, Christian Brothers Robotics stepped up to the plate and won 1st place in that same Northern California Regional competition.

It’s safe to say that the Class of 2021 are the robotics’ All-Stars at Christian Brothers, and this can be seen in their exceptional performance in several competitions.

Harrison and Kamron reflect on some of the classes that have helped them succeed in robotics.

“I think most of the engineering classes are invaluable as well as physics — shoutout to Mr. Eckel,” Harrison says. “The engineering classes teach you invaluable skills like using C.A.D (Computer-Aided Design) software like Autodesk Inventor, and you can learn how to code in languages similar to the ones our robots run on.”

“Classes that have helped me succeed in robotics are probably Intro to Engineering and Design, as I really learned how to use professional grade C.A.D, not a drag and drop program,” Kamron added. “For engineering as a whole, AP Physics has helped me see how statics are integrated into the engineering process.”

Quarantine has put a huge strain on the ability for robotics to continue, but some accommodations have been made to maintain a semblance of what once was.

“Everything we’re doing is virtual,” says Mr. Delgado. “That means the kids can’t meet as a large group to build,because they cannot exchange equipment. I might have them partner up and build a small project and then just let them compete against one another in someone’s backyard pool, and then submit the videos of that to the competitions.”

To maintain their robotics skills and knowledge, Harrison and Kamron have found ways to hone in and sharpen their skills while at home.

“Since we are not at school, I have had time to just experiment and learn more about using sensors and utilized 3D printers, which normally print robotics parts, but instead using them to make face shields, mask extenders, and other PPE to help our community in this time of need,” says Harrison.

Kamron acknowledges that it is extremely difficult to work on robotics in a digital format, but is hopeful that they will be able to participate in a competition in April.

Robotics allows students to take their wildest ideas and try to bring them into real life. Even if they don’t succeed, they will eventually stumble upon that one idea or creation, that can really make a difference and “propel humanity forward to the next great discovery.” Who knows what crazy creation will be coming out of Room 607 next.

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