The La Cañada Engineering Club
The Engineering Club inspires long-term interest in STEM in students throughout Los Angeles. As a well-established partner of FIRST, we are devoted to growing engagement within FIRST programs throughout the Los Angeles community and the world, one block at a time.
Founded in 2007, the La Cañada Engineering Club is a group of students passionate about STEM.
The mission of the La Cañada Engineering Club is to acquire and spread the knowledge and skills of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math by participating in national engineering competitions of all types, as well as inspiring and changing the culture by reaching out to the communities surrounding us through workshops, demonstrations, After-School programs, LCF Engineering Appreciation Day, and summer camps.
Our club participates in multiple programs throughout the year. We start off with our FIRST Lego League program, mentoring 4 teams – one from PCY and LCE, as well as two from LCHS 7/8. Starting in January we compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition, where we build a 120lbs robot over the course of 6 weeks.
Our club can be found working year-round in our workshop, formerly the wood-shop room 604 at La Cañada High School. Major sponsors for the La Cañada Engineering Club are the Jet Propulsion Lab, Evergreen Landcare. Other major sponsors include: La Cañada High School Boosters, OC Waterjet, and Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles.
As the leading host for FLL tournaments in the Los Angeles Region, our partnership with FIRST extends beyond FRC. We have maintained a stable FIRST presence in LA for elementary and middle school students by hosting and running over 48 FLL tournaments over the last 10 years. Even during COVID, we helped judge virtual Practice, Qualifying, and Regional Championship FLL tournaments. At our tournaments, we work to provide an exciting and memorable experience for attending teams while establishing an example for growing FLL tournament partners to follow. Additionally, Blockhead events are entirely student-run, providing over 35 volunteers from judges, referees, and scorekeepers, to audiovisual production. Blockheads work back-to-back 12 hours days on multiple weekends to ensure these events run smoothly and efficiently. Tony Ayad, the Operational Partner for LA FLL, reflected on his experiences at our tournaments, writing, “The work you did, the smiles and constructive feedback that you shared, and the long days away from your families all served a cause that is greater than ourselves. You invested your time, your talents to inspire the next generation to strive beyond what is possible.” Our tournaments provide fun experiences for FLL students and form the building blocks for the pursuit of STEM engagement in FTC, FRC, and mentoring roles in the future.
In addition to supporting FIRST through our FLL tournaments, 2429 supports FIRST financially. A stipend is provided by the region to host tournaments, and 2429 donates the entire stipend directly back to LAFLL, accounting for about $6,500 each year, and over $25,000+ in the last ten years. Furthermore, the LA region has one of the lowest tournament registration fees in the nation by having significantly lower infrastructure costs fueled by 2429’s long term partnerships. We maintain our devotion to FIRST and assist in its ability to have a positive effect throughout LA and inspire more students to get involved in STEM programs. By providing necessary tournament space and financial resources, our collaboration plays a vital role in the region’s annual 13-15% team growth.
To strengthen our commitment to FIRST, we have taken over the responsibility of hosting and running practice and league meets for FTC. Last year, we ran 4 FTC tournaments right in our workshop. Every role at our FTC tournaments, other than the referees and inspectors, is filled by members of 2429; the scorekeeper, MC, set up/clean up crew, concessions, and AV production are all run by Blockheads.
Our team also invests effort to introduce neighboring schools to FIRST. 2429 has helped start FTC at a nearby school, Flintridge Prep, and mentored an FTC team at Temple City and San Gabriel. Recently, we have also mentored FRC teams at Westchester High School and at The Helping Group, a special needs school based in Sherman Oaks, and we have kept in contact with both of these teams in current times.
Over the summer of 2019, Blockheads provided published resources to grow the FIRST community in Indonesia, undeserved in robotics, beyond FLL. 2429 crafted a multimedia workshop to explain everything from starting to maintaining a FRC team. We then presented the information in a 4-hour workshop to their FLL members, parents and educators. Since our presentation, we have continued to consult their FIRST members (FLL and FRC) through virtual meetings. It’s our sincere hope that these ongoing efforts will spark passion in Indonesian kids for STEM, FIRST and Robotics.
2429 has also worked to inspire engineering and STEM skills as well as gracious professionalism to people of all ages in our local LA area. As we search for new and innovative outreach events, we strive to provide STEM to all age groups. This year, despite COVID preventing in person activities, we have been in contact with local senior centers to develop an outreach program showing seniors the ins and outs of robotics through FIRST programs.
We frequently demonstrate our FRC robot and other engineering projects to numerous events, ranging from school assemblies to football games, parades, and car shows. Two summers ago, our FRC robot and other engineering projects were featured at a “Summer Concerts in the Park Series”, sparking interest in FIRST to people from a wide variety of ages, including younger students who were especially interested in joining our FLL program. In La Canada Flintridge, we have gotten March 14th declared as “Appreciate an Engineer Day”, which is now celebrated within our town. Additionally, our club members utilized our engineering capabilities to spearhead the LCHS Cares initiative. Using our facilities, many members dedicated time to making and assembling 3-D printed masks for the local Verdugo Hills Hospital.
With many summer camps and classes closed due to COVID, Blockheads decided to host 2 week-long camps over Zoom targeted towards our FLL members as well as elementary and middle school students. In our CAD course, we walked students through how to set up the program and produce sketches, cuts, patterns, revolutions and assemblies. One especially interested student was even inspired to apply his new CAD skills to model a lightsaber. In our Python camp we utilized fun programs such as hangman, rock paper scissors, and mad libs to teach concepts such as print statements, loops, and functions. These courses provided a fun educational opportunity that sparked many students’ interests in both STEM and our club.
During the offseason, Blockheads have participated in both Marine Advanced Technology Education, Solar Car Challenge, and Solar Cup, which has allowed members to embrace FIRST values outside of FIRST competitions. By participating in these competitions, we continue to empower the presence of Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition in all competition fields.
Additionally, 2429 has been able to establish engineering classes within our school district. At the middle and high school level, 4 Project Lead the Way courses are held at La Cañada Middle and High School and are packed full of students interested in exploring the world of STEM. Last year, we were able to dedicate an after school class to our club, and many students in the class joined the club after enrolling in the class. This has allowed for even more students to hear about 2429 and consider jumping into the FIRST world.
Last year, we partnered with the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles to create an opportunity for young girls to explore STEM. During one of our qualifying FLL tournaments, 2429 hosted a badge day for girls to earn their “Designing Robots” badge, where they came to our school and were taught the design process. Since this was during an FLL tournament, we gave the girls a tour to spark their interest in FLL. Additionally, many of the teams that come to our FLL tournaments are Girl Scout teams; to these girls, we offered a chance to earn their “Showcasing Robots” badge during the competition. This allowed for over 20 girls to earn a STEM badge. In May this year, we plan to lead the Brownies Programming Robots badge to continue our efforts of exposing more young girls to FIRST and its programs.
2429 has hosted E-Waste drives for the past 8 years. Through these drives, we have cemented our presence within our community by providing a reliable source for our local neighborhood to safely dispose of unwanted products in an environmentally friendly way. We have collected and recycled about 36,000 pounds of waste in the past year alone. We have also donated over 600 pounds of pasta and pasta sauce to Caterina’s Club through our FLL food drives from the past 2 years.
To the younger members of our community, 2429 creates a sustainable pathway through FIRST, and for a future in STEM. We have created a “Farm System”, a program for students to continue their growth in engineering. By housing our FLL, FTC, and FRC teams all under one roof, we have created an intentional transition from one FIRST program to another for our younger members.
Every year since 2009, 15 of our team members mentor 4 FLL teams, and provide them with support and assistance. Through our FLL program, we are able to recruit elementary and middle school students who have a passion for STEM, and ensure that this passion is able to develop and grow as they continue getting older. Additionally, we decided to create our Blockhead FTC program after we realized many of our FRC rookies took a year or 2 to fully understand engineering principles. Senior members of our FRC team dedicate their time to mentor a FTC team and focus on teaching these newcomers the technical skills they will utilize during the upcoming FRC season. Our philosophy for cultivating a love for engineering, especially for younger children, is to establish an environment that explores and develops student-centered designs and ideas. By having a flexible and hands-off approach in our programs, we empower members to be creative and confident in their ideas.
Through 2429’s 16 years of perseverance and dedication, we have created a cohesive team that places an importance on STEM within our community. We have learned that FRC is not only about the robots that we build, but the relationships we form and the impression we make on those around us. As members continue to join and graduate from La Cañada Engineering Club, all Blockheads remain a part of one team and one family. Together, we continue to develop and perpetuate a stem focused culture throughout our community, one block at a time.