NASA-Supported 'The Cheesy Poofs' Robotics Team Honored by White House
As part of the 2011 FIRST World Championship, each winning team would be invited to send a representative to the second annual White House Science Fair in the East Wing of the White House. Last week, Bellarmine College Preparatory School, San Jose, Calif. selected senior Eric Bakan to attend the event on behalf of the school’s championship robotics team, The Cheesy Poofs.
The event, hosted by President Obama, is part of his "Educate to Innovate" campaign to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies and careers. To support this campaign, NASA developed a wide variety of education programs, including the Robotics Alliance Project (RAP), which was initiated in the nineties by NASA’s Program Executive Dave Lavery from the Science Mission Directorate.
“NASA is proud to help students achieve high honors in computer programming and engineering,” said Mark Leon, manager of the NASA Robotics Alliance Project at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. “They are developing skills and learning practical application of science and physics that we hope will help them throughout life, possibly even future NASA space exploration missions.”
Last year, more than 25,000 fans, families, educators and industry leaders attended the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition Championship Winning Alliance at Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Mo., including the White House Chief Technology Officer Assistant Aneesh Chopra.
Although more than 600 teams from 29 countries competed in the robotics challenge, the Bellarmine team, called The Cheesy Poofs (Team 254), won the championship. After 14 years of team building, where students shared their expertise and passed along their technical developments to the next year’s group of students, the team achieved its ultimate success.
The Cheesy Poofs (Team 254), a team mentored by engineers at NASA Ames, were one of three teams that formed the winning alliance; the other teams were "Wild Stang" (Team 111) from Schaumburg, Ill. and "Greybots" (Team 973) from Atascadero, Calif.
The Cheesy Poofs team is the robotics team at Bellarmine, and was selected by FIRST Robotics to send a team member to the White House Science Fair. Although it was difficult to choose among many deserving students, Bellarmine physics teacher Ann Roemer said that Eric Bakan stood out.
Eric is the head of programming and controls on the school’s robotics team, leads the FRC programming squad, and has developed the team's website and managed students' efforts in the Zero Robotics Programming Competition. Last spring, Bakan was one of the programming geniuses that not only won the FIRST Championship world robotics competition, but received the excellence award in the VEX robotics tournament.
“Our students learn project design, machine training and software integration. FIRST and VEX robotic programs are great platforms that excite students about engineering and science,” said Roemer.
Last week in Washington, D.C., Eric Bakan proudly represented The Cheesy Poofs robotics champions at the White House ceremony.
To learn more about NASA’s Education programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/education
Ruth Dasso Marlaire
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.