Founded in 2007, Team 2429, known as The La Canada Engineering Club, continues to seek innovation and success in the promotion of engineering in our community. After winning the Rookie All-Star Award at the Los Angeles Regional in 2008, we have grown to become not only a well established, 11 year veteran FRC team, but also a large community partner of Blockheads devoted in spreading STEM throughout the Los Angeles region.
Our partnership with the Los Angeles (LA) FLL Region continues to bring sustainability, growth, and success as we are the leading tournament partner in the region. Hosting 30 FLL tournaments over the last 5 years (including 7 this year alone), we ensure that the LA’s growing FLL program continues to be successful. Our tournament itinerary for this year included 3 practice, 2 qualifying, and 2 regional championship tournaments. We pride ourselves on providing a memorable and exciting experience to all. Our practice tournaments serve as models for new directors to become familiarized with the structure of the day. 2429 members, not adults, take the lead in running the tournaments, utilizing the teamwork, leadership, and initiative. From providing judges, referees, scorekeepers, sound/audio, and crew members, 2429 student members accounts for 90% of all volunteers, working close to 11 hour shifts on back to back weekends. We strive to ensure that participants have as much fun as possible by creating a low anxiety zone at our tournaments. Our tournaments are well known throughout the region to be efficient and consistently run. We frequently have participants, coaches, and parents come up and email us about how much fun they had, or how they can’t wait to return next year.
We believe the experience that participants encounter directly influences whether or not they choose to continue with FIRST. If they have a great time, it is more than likely that they will return to FTC, FRC, and continue to be involved in FIRST throughout their lives. LA operational partner of FLL, Tony Ayad, has told us that our tournaments continue to “serve the Los Angeles area in an impactful way by providing a well rounded and fantastic experience for the kids”, and a big reason for that was that our members “have a lot of experience participating in FLL, and know what is expected”.
We support FIRST financially, as well as. Even though a stipend is provided from the region to host tournaments, 2429 continues to donate the entire the stipend back, accounting to over $20,000 in support. By expanding the reach of FIRST programs like FLL to be more accessible for even more kids, we continue our commitment to FIRST. By providing necessary tournament space and financial resources, our long-term partnership plays an important role in the region’s annual 13-15% growth. We make FLL accessible to all in LA, by having one of the lowest registration and championship tournament fees across the nation.
Having competitive robotics is a great way to get more and more students interested in STEM, which is why we make an effort to introduce neighboring schools to FIRST. 2429 has helped start FTC teams at three nearby high schools and we have mentored an FRC team at The Helping Group, a special needs school based in Sherman Oaks. Many of the students at that school are academically talented, especially in math and science, however, have trouble socializing and communicating. By introducing them to FIRST, we were able to give them an activity where their STEM skills could really shine, but also something that would help them with working in social settings and improving their teamwork skills.
2429 has not just inspired participation in FIRST robotics but also spurred current members to make STEM part of their communities’ lives. 20% of team members this year entered the JPL Space Academy program. 1 member used her Girl Scout Gold Award to develop a robotics curriculum for inner-city elementary schools. Another member spent time in China, teaching LEGO robotics to school age children. We have also forged a partnership with the Greater Girl Scouts of Los Angeles to create a special merit badge in engineering that a scout can earn. With a presentation led by 2429 to the city council, March 14th (“Pi Day”) was declared “Appreciate an Engineer” day in our city and has been since celebrated throughout schools in La Canada. 2429 knows that we can make the greatest impact among those closest to us. That is why we host our annual engineering week, where we run lunchtime activities for students and faculty to participate in. As our school is located right next to JPL, we always have some of the world’s most esteemed scientists and engineers come to share their experiences with the student body. These lectures are always packed, but the games and activities such as building competitions and FTC freeze tag robots, are just as popular. Additionally, we frequently demonstrate our FRC robot or other projects we have been working on at school assemblies, GATE after-school programs, parent nights, football games, and always take part in school fairs and carnivals (including a mini-makers faire during the summer of 2017).
We also host field trips to our community sponsors and STEM based programs, such as the CalTech Robotics Lab, Glenair, and USC Medical Center. 2429 offers team members workshops such as our annual CAD classes. Club alumnus from SolidWorks teaches interested students how to design objects in a classroom setting a unique opportunity for students to gain knowledge directly from an industry specialist. One of the reasons the Blockheads love FRC so much is that it gives them the chance to build and create new things. During the offseason, 2429 participates in two other challenges, where we build and race cars and boats using the power of the sun. Participation in the Metropolitan Water District Solar Cup and The Solar Car Challenge has allowed members to utilize FIRST skills in an outside organization applying Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition to those who may have never heard of it. We have embraced these values and even gotten recognised, empowering the meaning of what it means to have Coopertition away from the FIRST competition field.
As our school continues to move towards STEM education, we have been instrumental in moving our school towards the adoption a series of engineering classes. Both at the middle and high school level, 2429 helped put together the proposal in the adaption of classes that teaches design, materials, control, and manufacturing skills. These classes have well received with students, faculty, and parents.
Each year, with our local Green Club, we host two E-Waste drives, collecting and recycling over 20,000 pounds of unwanted waste. We are also a donation location for any used ink cartridges and batteries. Additionally, our we have also grown to help our local food bank 3 years in a row, as we host 10 food drive opportunities at our FLL tournaments collecting over 400 pounds of food to support families in need through the LA Regional Food Bank.
Being a part of 2429 creates both a FIRST and career pathway for all team members. Among our alumni, 99.6% attend or have attended a 4-year university, with 85% majoring in a STEM field. 2429 has built a sustainability model called the BetaBlockhead, our own “Farm System” By housing the FLL and FTC all under one roof; not only we have created a smooth transition from FIRST program to another for members, but also allow the the future stability of 2429.
We mentor 4 FLL teams (including 1 all girls team), providing meeting space and support over the past 10 seasons. All of our FLL teams are wholly student-run with 18 of our FRC members mentoring, organizing, and managing team logistics. 2429 provides the back end support of ensuring workspace availability and monetary funds to cover robot expenses.
Realizing many of our rookies took a year or two to get their FRC feet moving, the Blochead FTC program is also housed by 2429, providing mentorship, monetary, and workshop support. Members new to FRC are encouraged to join our FTC program to better prepare themselves for the expectations of an intensive FRC season. Housing our FTC program has allowed for better suitability and long-term growth of our FRC team due to the minimal knowledge gap among members. We keep our FTC fresh with only rookies, to empower those new to FRC program to find their voice.
Our philosophy for developing a love for engineering, especially for younger children, is to create an environment that explores and develops student-centered designs and ideas. We have a hands-off approach in regards to our programs, allowing participants and student leaders to have as much flexibility as possible to develop a sense of independence and confidence, something we learned from our own FRC student-led mentality.
As we head into our 11th year in FRC, through successes and failures, we are stronger than ever on changing the culture of our community. As a sustainable team, we have learned that FRC isn’t just about the robots that we built, but the relationships and community impacts that we can create. Our influences on the community grows year after year; evidenced by new mentors, new community members, and new sponsorships added. Times have changed, and STEM has become a reality for many. As members continue to join and graduate from 2429, the Blockheads are all apart of one team, one family; and all of us are forging a path, for a better tomorrow.
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