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  • Writer's pictureEmily Lavin

Students test engineering skills in Del Mar robotics class



Del Mar Middle School students Axel Smith (third from left) and Dominic Etchevers operate the robot created by their advanced robotics class while peer Sophia Nachtigall (second from left) and mentor Art Lamb look on. The 20 students in the class make up the Bearded Dragons robotics team that participates in competitions around the Bay Area under the First Tech Challenge, a program for kids in grades 7-12. (Nick Shorten Jr. / For The Ark)

Students in Del Mar Middle School’s advanced robotics class watch closely as the Bearded Dragon, the robot they’ve spent the past three months or so building, moves around the square playing field they’ve set up along one side of their classroom.


With seventh-graders Dominic Etchevers and Axel Smith guiding the robot via remote control, it navigates the roughly 12-foot-by-12-foot area enclosed by short walls, attempting to pick up flat, pucklike objects called pixels and carry them under plastic trusses to the other side of the space, where it extends its arm to deposit them on a backboard.


The advanced robotics class, a new elective this year at Del Mar, offers students the opportunity to not only learn engineering principles but to put them to use in a practical and fun way. The 20 seventh- and eighth-graders in the class, taught by Nate MacDonald, make up the Bearded Dragons robotics team that participates in competitions around the Bay Area under the First Tech Challenge, a robotics program for kids in grades 7-12. The program is offered by nonprofit First, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, which was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen and offers a variety of team-based robotics opportunities for kids ages 4-18.


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