Robotics Squads Deliver Strong Performances, State Qualifier in Home Tournament.

img_0002-2.jpgBy Tommy Smeltzer

Chaminade’s Eagle Engineering robotics team has qualified a squad to compete in the California State Championship for the sixth consecutive year as team 1138A took home the top award at their home tournament, The Chaminade Showdown. At the same tournament, Team 83A, the Vex Robotics team from Chaminade middle school won the Judges Award.

As in previous years, Eagle Engineering splits off into three distinct teams for the Vex Robotics competition. While all of the students collaborate and support each other leading up to game time, they compete as separate teams in tournaments. During qualifying rounds, matches are played between alliances of randomly paired teams vying for the highest ranking, while judges interview students and study their machines for a variety of awards. Based on the results of nine matches for each team, top-ranked teams then pick their alliance partners for the elimination rounds.

This is the fourth year for Chaminade hosting a tournament on their West Hills campus. Overnight, volunteers turned the Bob Hope Center into a sports arena featuring competition fields and bleachers, pits for teams to work on their machines and a full livestream broadcast setup. All four of Chaminade’s Vex squads competed, along with 28 other area teams.

The teams rebounded from a rough start to the season as tournaments in Bakersfield and Calabasas presented a slew of technical and strategic challenges. Needing a fresh perspective in the two weeks off, team 1138B founding member Anthony Gruppuso ’13 was brought in to inspire the teams to re-think their approach. Gruppuso’s unique leadership style and a keen eye for strategy sent a bolt of energy through the high school squads, and the results were impressive. All three played to their strengths with greater urgency, with the senior-most squad, 1138A leading the rankings most of the day only to be toppled (literally) by the all-girl 1138G in a late round. Both 1138G and 1138A finished in the top eight (4th and 8th respectively), guaranteeing them a spot in the elimination rounds.

Both Eagle teams were knocked out in the quarterfinals. However, the judges chose 1138-A as the winner of the Excellence Award, given to the team with the best performance consistently across all categories. That guaranteed them a berth at the State Championship where they will compete next March for a chance to move on to the World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky in April.

With the season now in full swing, Eagle Engineers have no time to let up. Both the 1138B and 138G teams, as well as the 83A team from the middle school, are more driven than ever to qualify to compete alongside 1138A at the State Championship. All of the teams are determined to improve and refine their machines as they go into their remaining three events of 2018 in Reseda, Granada Hills, and El Camino College.

Eagle Engineering is a student-centered competitive robotics program with a focus on a professional team approach to design, engineering, programming and business challenges. For more information on Chaminade Robotics and how you can support the team, please contact Head Coach Tommy Smeltzer: tsmeltzer@chaminade.org.

Center for Excellence Registration is Open

Registration for Chaminade College Preparatory’s Center for Excellence (CCE) is now open. It is the perfect place for students to spend their summer learning and growing. With classes in the morning and afternoon, CCE offers programs, for students entering grades 1-12, designed to inspire, engage, and empower young minds.

Students entering grades 1 through 12 will enjoy expanding their horizons through the Center for Excellence summer programming. For students entering Chaminade’s 6th grade, Eagles Take Flight will prepare them academically and introduce them to Chaminade’s middle school community; while students entering high school grades can acquire valuable skills in High School Study and Success Skills, and students entering 12th grade can prepare for college applications in the College Application Bootcamp. CCE also offers robotics programs on both campuses with a brand-new class on the West Hills campus focusing on electronics and programming.

This year, CCEs summer Ste[+a]m Academy, for grades K-5, will once again be powered by STEMscopes. With a different curriculum each week, there is no repetition. Each STEMscope module engages students in cross-disciplinary activities that build knowledge and skills in areas including computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. Students can come for one week, or all five weeks.

The Great Books Academy, for grades K-5, is one of CCEs most popular programs aimed at educating the whole child. The Great Books curriculum is the cornerstone of the academy and is specially designed to help students become independent readers and thinkers by focusing on reading comprehension, critical thinking, vocabulary, and writing.

Summer is also an excellent time for students of all ages to pursue their creative passions in visual and performing arts. And children ages 5 to 15 can join CCEs Sports Camps and explore athletics from football to basketball as well as soccer, baseball, volleyball, fencing, and more. The West Hills campus also hosts Varsity Camps, which gives students the chance to work with Chaminade’s varsity head coaches, players, and former athletes with college and professional experience.

For more information visit chaminade.org/centerforexcellence or click here to register today.

Eagle Engineers Debut International Robotics Honor Society at World Championship

Chaminade’s Eagle Engineering robotics teams are completing their season at the Vex Robotics World Championship with historic implications. While the STEM Hall of Fame middle school team 83 earned their way to VEX Worlds as a finalist in the Southern California State Championship, the high school’s team 1138 traveled to Louisville with a secret.

Earlier in the year, former Chaminade teacher and Eagle Engineering founder Nancy McIntyre invited her old team to pilot a new program for the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation (RECF). The top-secret project was created to help develop a way to recognize the dedication and excellence that robotics students commit to their sport.  The International Robotics Honor Society (IRHS), will be rolled out to all American teams next year and will go worldwide in the 2019-2020 school year. Based on the format of the National Honor Society, IRHS celebrates students who excel in a combination of academic excellence, service and leadership, and a high commitment to their school’s robotics program.

Since late Fall, Robotics Program Director Tommy Smeltzer worked with McIntyre, Principal, Bro. Tom Fahy and team parents Talin Mansourian and Laura Gideon to charter a chapter at Chaminade and devise local guidelines for admission. After a comprehensive application period, some of the new inductees traveled to Kentucky to take part in a surprise announcement on Friday morning’s opening ceremonies. Twelve Chaminade students joined students from a local Louisville school to be the first to be inducted on the main stage in the Kentucky Exposition Center’s 18,000-seat Freedom Hall. Brother Tom Fahy was on hand to witness the event and share in the excitement as both Chaminade teams competed among the 1600 teams from over 40 countries.

Chaminade is honored to be among those leading the way in the development of this monumental program that will encourage STEM programs and recognize the dedicated students destined to become the next generation of engineers, programmers, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

For more information on Eagle Engineering, contact tsmeltzer@chaminade.org.

Eagle Engineering Wins $10,000 Team Grant at Pro-Style Video Gaming Tournament

By Tommy Smeltzer
Photos: Cooler Master

Eagle Engineering students turned a casual pastime into $10,000 for their program in July when they won the Overwatch Cooler Master Invitational tournament at the ESports Arena in Santa Ana. This inaugural event featured the popular team-based video game Overwatch, which pits two teams of six different hero characters against each other in a variety of timed challenges. Esports, or electronic sports, is a growing phenomenon around the world with a global audience of over 200 million people. Revenue for professional gaming was estimated at nearly $500 million in 2016.

Cooler Master is a computer hardware company with offices in Chino, and specializes in components for custom-built gaming computers and peripherals. When they learned about the skills and experience gained by robotics students around the world, as well as the fundraising challenges teams face, the company decided to add their support. In getting to know teams it became obvious that there was a lot of crossover between robotics and gaming, so the Cooler Master Invitational was born. Business Development Manager Brandon Kovacic said, “Cooler Master is excited to have an opportunity to bring our passion of esports and technology together with robotics for this event. Giving the teams the ultimate esports experience while benefiting their STEM programs was our goal and with the help of the sponsors we were able to accomplish that.” They teamed up with LA Robotics, a non-profit that facilitates workshops, programs and scholarship programs across Southern California to solicit applications and select 12 teams to compete for a total purse of $40,000 in program grants. The tournament was live-streamed on the popular gaming site Twitch.tv.

The Overwatch teams in the tournament were comprised of students from 2016-2017 season robotics team rosters. Eagle gamers included Captain David Ardy ’17, Nicole Kuberka ’17, Daniel Brown ’19, Aaryan Wadwha ’19, Daniel Bedrossian ’19, and Ethan Mikahel ’19. Jonathan Huang ’19 was alternate. The team did all the work in getting accepted into the 12-team pool, and were guaranteed a minimum of $1,000. Connor Morse ’19 created video content and provided support critical to the team’s acceptance into the tournament.

While the Chaminade teammates knew each other well from robotics, many had never played video games together online, so it took weeks of practice and strategy development to hone themselves into a fine tuned machine in-game. “Two weeks ago, we thought we were going to come in here and get destroyed,” said Ardy. “Our highest individual ranking was mid-diamond, but some other teams in the tournament had top-500 guys. We also didn’t think we’d practiced enough as a team, but as it turned out, we were probably the most practiced team there. All that preparation and teamwork really paid off, but that’s just a normal process for our robotics team I think.”

The two-day tournament held qualifying rounds on the first day and a single-elimination bracket on day two. The Eagle Engineering team suffered their only loss in the second round of the qualifiers, and had to battle their way out of the losers bracket to secure a wildcard spot on day two, guaranteeing a minimum prize of $2,000. After two tough wins in the semifinals against Gryffingear, the finals pitted Eagle Engineering versus Code Orange in a best of five series. The Eagles squeaked out a win in the first round and then dropped the next two, setting up a dramatic showdown over the next two matches. The outcome was uncertain right up to the very last seconds. The crowd at ESports Arena erupted as the final seconds ticked down and the winner was determined in match five.

The money awarded to the team will help with registration costs and an upgrade to the team’s aging pit, the portable shop area they set up at competitions. With expansive program growth over the past several years, the team must raise approximately $20,000 in corporate sponsorships and private contributions each year in addition to their school budget to be competitive in all areas and serve the growing team with plenty of hands-on engineering and programming projects. “This takes a lot of pressure off of our fundraising efforts,” said Team Head Coach Tommy Smeltzer, “but we hope we will be able to enjoy this above and beyond our usual goals. There is a lot we need to do to stay competitive, so this money could do that if we are able to continue to get other gifts coming in.”

The entire broadcast of the tournament is archived on Twitch.tv. Eagle Engineering is a student-centered, competitive robotics program with a focus on a professional team approach to design, engineering, programming and business challenges. For more information on Chaminade Robotics and how you can support the team, please contact Head Coach Tommy Smeltzer.

Eagle Engineering Tops World in Programming Challenge

VEX Worlds 2017

Christian Gideon ’19, Eagle Engineering programmer, earned the top score in the world in the Robot Virtual Worlds Vex Online Challenge this spring, earning his team a berth to the 10th Annual VEX Robotics World Championship. Beginning in early fall,  teams traditionally compete at the local level in hopes of competing at the state level, then going to the World Championship. Gideon’s performance earned the team the unique opportunity to get straight to the Championship.

“I got to meet the company that designed the online challenge when we received the award onstage.  The designer of the game told me that I just edged out a team from China!” said Gideon in Louisville, Kentucky.

Nine students from Chaminade College Preparatory’s Robotics Team 1138 spent their Spring Break in Louisville, picking up their sixth overall World Championship Level trophy and competing at the highest level for the third consecutive year.  The three-day competition is the largest gathering of STREAM (Science, Technology, Research, Engineering, Arts & Math) students in one place, as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2016. Teams compete head-to-head in tournament play and are judged not only on design and functionality of their robot, but also in a variety of areas including driver skills, programming and coding skills, engineering process, community outreach and presentations.

Eagle Engineering is comprised of more than 60 Chaminade students. While they compete as a team in a sport for custom-built machines, the program operates much like a business. Students develop skills in more than just technology; including leadership, project management, PR/marketing, business, service, design and communications.  During the team’s most intense six weeks of the year called Build Season, robotics students can be found working long hours in the Bob Hope Center several days each week.

So why not get a part-time job?  “This is a job! “ Gideon said, half-jokingly. “ A lot of my friends are there and I am getting real-life experience.  I also like the competition aspect of Robotics.  And it’s a family.  I started with Mr. Clark in 6th grade, then spent two years with Coach (Harry) Hosaka at the Middle School.  Now I am with Coach Tommy (Smeltzer) at the high school.  I am really happy to be part of this family.”