Young robot builders race into future

In a footrace, “Star Wars” droid R2-D2 wouldn’t stand a chance against the robots built by San Mateo County’s youngest engineers.

Take El Toro’s Revenge, for example. It may not be the best looking robot ever made, but it can rip around a racetrack, according to the Mills High School students who built it.

“He’s the highest-performing robot at the lowest cost,” said a proud Kevin Chen, 16, animation manager for the Mills Robotics Team.

The Mills team entered speedy El Toro, built on a $400 budget, into the FIRST Robotics Competition this weekend at San Jose State University’s Event Center.

The 10th annual FIRST competition featured a bevy of robots designed and constructed by teenage engineers from high schools across California and as far as Mexico and Hawaii.

Teams of up to 20 students spent more than a month constructing remote-controlled robots that can pick up and carry inflatable balls while racing around a track.

Mills was one of three San Mateo County high schools involved in the competition. Aragon entered a robot called The Faustinator and Menlo-Atherton entered Ma Bear.

Teams raise funds for parts and competition fees. Aragon has marketers and public-relations representatives along with its engineers. The team prints a newsletter as a progress report for sponsors.

“We don’t just learn how to create a robot, we learn to create an image for ourselves,” said Katie Ward, an Aragon teacher and team adviser.

maldax@examiner.com

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