STEM Students Shoot for the Moon and Build the Robots to Get There

STEM Students

If science is the key to our future, we’ve learned that applied learning can unlock student passion. With renewed interest in astronomy and space exploration, who better for students to learn from than one of the world’s leading authorities on space, Dr. Charles Elachi.

It’s not just a question of science education. At Green Dot Public Schools, students are encouraged to broaden their learning beyond the classroom. Introducing students to unique experiences nurtures their creativity and enriches their individual interests.

Earlier this year, participants in the robotics program at Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School and Ánimo Leadership Charter High School met with former director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Dr. Charles Elachi, who has overseen over 45 space missions including the landing of The Curiosity Rover on Mars.

"A life of science outside of the classroom is something our students need to see,” said Stephen Skoropad, Physics Teacher at Ánimo Leadership. “The Los Angeles World Affairs Council is that introduction it.”

The Los Angeles World Affairs Council (LAWC), offers high school students the opportunity to attend lectures that provide students a global outlook on current affairs. Past events have hosted influential leaders like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Dalai Lama, Elon Musk, and many more. For the robotics students from Ánimo Inglewood and Ánimo Leadership, this was a chance of a lifetime.

“Coming here tonight got me interested in space exploration and possibly being able to build something that would help us explore more of space,” said Ernesto Torreblanca, a Junior at Ánimo Inglewood.

STEM Student
Ernesto Torreblanca Junior at Ánimo Inglewo

The time is ripe for discovery

Elachi believes we are in the Golden Age of space exploration. He emphasized the need for students to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) because the next two decades are likely to uncover many more discoveries.

“When I was your age we were lucky to launch something, just to go out into space,” shared Elachi. “Now here we are with a rover on another planet acting like a geologist.” In 2012,  the automated motor vehicle designed by JPL, Curiosity Rover, landed on Mars in hopes of doing two things: discovering if life ever existed on Mars, and preparing for possible human exploration.

Kate Alvarez, a Senior at Ánimo Leadership, walked away from the event feeling inspired, “I would like to be part of the team that discovers new things” said Alvarez.

STEM Student
Andres Sanchez, a Senior at Ánimo Leadership

“This experience and the support from Mr. Skoropad propel us to find future careers in engineering and robotics to make a difference in the world, reach Mars, or even discover something brand new,” said Andres Sanchez, a Senior at Ánimo Leadership.

To these students, robotics is fundamental to their educational experience. “Having robotics in our schools gives me hands on experience,” said Torreblanca. “I have a better understanding of how to solve problems and how to work with other people.”

“[Robotics] is about problem solving, soft skills, empathy, and teamwork,” said Tom Rice, Physics Teacher, supporting the Robotics program at Ánimo Inglewood. “All these are different skills that students do not often get in the regular classroom.”

The students left the event feeling inspired, knowing that the passion they share for robotics and STEM could lead to a lifetime of discovery and innovation.The evening further motivated them to prepare for the upcoming robotics competition in the spring, where student teams place their robot creations into a battle royale.

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