Pioneer Robotics Team Success

Pioneering their way with robots

Congratulations to the Maharishi School Robotics team who are FTC Iowa State Championship bound, Your hard work, dedication, and innovative thinking haverobotics team paid off! The Robotics team surged from 17th to 5th place at their league event, qualifying them for State.

Coaches tell their story

Mr. Pradeep Aikar and Mr. Jeremy Blitz Jones are the coaches for this program, and through their guidance we have seen so much progress with Pioneer Robotics. They highlighted the teams journey below:
“We at Pioneer Robotics have had our set of challenges this year with fewer than 4 students working on Engineering and Robot design, and 3 students working on outreach. The sheer sense of small size of our team meant everyone was stretched to maximum capacity. What really benefited us this year was the snow days that we got additional time to work on our robot. Coupled with the dedicated, and reliable team members, we were able to put on a fantastic show.”
“Phuong, Jessie and Pranit worked on getting our outreach going. This area requires us to connect with the local community engineering firms. We also do outreach with non technical groups, like students and community members who are not involved in robotics. We show them our robot and present what we do at First Tech Challenge. Jessie and Pranit together put a drone designed by them in a designated area on the game field that launches paper. This time our drone launcher was one of the most reliable scoring elements that consistently scored 20 points.”
“Miles and Keshav were our engineers who put the hardware together. They build the chassis on which the robot is built and all other score elements of the robot. We have a claw mounted on the arm that picks up the pixel and places them on a board. They attached a hook on which the robot suspends itself in the end game. Miles came up with a plan of a claw design and mounted it on the robot that did extremely well. He 3D printed parts of the robot so that we have an additional advantage when it comes to scoring.”
robotics team“Poojita worked on 3D printing and design work related to prototyping and final design of the hook. She made clear concise designs of the hook which allowed us to experiment on suspending the robot on a truss.”
“Ishita worked on coding and programming the robot so that all the scoring elements of the robot works synchronically controlled from a gamepad. She also worked on a section of the robot that requires the robot to autonomously work on tasks without the intervention of a human player.”
“Team Pioneer Robotics had a wonderful day at the competition. It was freezing cold on a Saturday morning when temperatures were close to -19F and the bus was even colder. We arrived at the venue and had a quick meeting. We know our robot was mostly ready to perform. The first thing we do is get our robot inspected. We passed the inspection, wherein the judges checked for the dimensions of the robot, safety standards and about 50 different parameters that the robot has to meet in order to participate in the competition.”
“Our team then went for a judging interview where they were asked about their journey and their contribution to the Engineering Portfolio. The Engineering Portfolio is a 15 page document which illustrates the building, programming, fundraising, outreach and any other aspect of developing our robot.
The two coaches and mentors, Mr. Jeremey Blitz Jones and Mr. Pradeep Aikar advised students to stay calm, composed and enjoy the process of the competition.
The teams then prepared the robot for the matches. In these matches the robot picks up pixels which are 3 inch sided hexagonal prisms and places them on to the board. There are many different ways the robot can score points.”
Our robot was built to score in every possible aspect of the game. We scored above 100 points in every game. We started at 17 on the ranking scale and moved up to rank 5 in the tournament. These were the achievements of our team in the Regional Meet.
1. Winners of the Control Award.
2. First time for Pioneer Robotics to be the winning captain alliance.
3. The highest performing team of the day.
4. Team advanced to State Level.
We at Pioneer Robotics are optimistic and looking forward to continuing working on our robot for the State Level competition. If you feel that you want to extend your support in any possible way, please feel free to connect with our team.

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Maharishi School Nominated for All-State Speech Performance

maharishi school speechMeet the Speech Team

Every year the Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA) conducts a state-wide competition featuring performances that provide a snapshot of what resonates with teens, their teachers, families, and communities. The performance piece was put together at the beginning of January, by teacher and Maharishi School Alumni Loreena Hansen, who made the compilation script. A compilation script means that contained in this Choral Reading are lots of different paragraphs from current news articles, plays, novels, and poems that all work together to prove a thesis to the audience. The next step is putting that script into movement.

Among these performers are the six students in the Maharishi School Speech and Drama program members include; Jolie Gaquer (11th grade), Eva Rubio Quevedo (9th grade), Gabriel Roesler (11th grade), Daira Valls Blazquez (10th grade), Uma Wegman (9th grade), and Jace Wallace (10th grade).

Daira Valls Blazquez

Eva Rubio Quevedo

Gabriel Roesler

Jace Wallace

Jolie Gaquer

Uma Wegman

 

When the group finally got to show off their hard work and perform at Districts Competition, there were 10-12 other groups to compete against. Which the Maharishi School team qualified to move on up through. Then at State there are four more competitions and after that you can be selected to go to All-State which features a critic who will be selecting one group that is the winner.

At State competition you have to get a perfect score from every judge in order to be considered in the running to perform at All-State. We are very excited to announce that the Maharishi School team has the honor of being nominated to perform at All-State!

Congratulations to our Maharishi School Speech team on receiving an IHSSA All-State nomination in Choral Reading! They will be performing at the All-State Festival at Iowa State University in Ames on Saturday, February 19th. Make sure you keep following our social channels for more updates!

 

speech all state iowa“I’ll just say that I couldn’t have asked for a better first year on the job. My students, many of whom have never had experience in theater before, are exemplary performers and team mates. I couldn’t be more proud of them. I am so thankful for the invaluable advice from coaches before me and the support of the school. The honor of having this team perform at All-State is an unmatched feeling! ”

Drama and Speech Coach Loreena Hansen

 

 

 

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The Sisterhood of the Girls Who Code

Starting a Girls Who Code Club in Fairfield, Iowa

Girls Who Code (GWC) is an international non-profit organization whose programs educate, equip, and inspire girls with computing skills they’ll need to pursue 21st-century career opportunities. Maharishi School student Shristi Sharma has been a self-taught coder since the 4th grade when she heard about a GWC club that had opened in the local public high school. Even though there were only 3 other kids at the time Shristi says, “It was the first time I had found other girls who were also doing something that I was interested in, and the club became a way of making new friends for me. When the club shut down I was very sad that I couldn’t continue to find this support group. That’s when I asked myself, why can’t I start my own club?”

Shristi found out that you have to be 18 to start a club and at this point, she was only 13 but felt strongly that she had the skill set necessary to teach coding. 

girls who code club maharishi school“I did something which is pretty uncharacteristic of me. I cold emailed the founder of GWC, Reshma Saujani, who is a huge celebrity in the tech world. I told her how even though I was too young, I had the skill set necessary to start my own club, and that there was a need for it because there wasn’t a single club within a 50-mile radius of Fairfield.”

Shristi’s desire to have a community of female coders, coupled with her exceptional ability to code, got the founder’s attention. She responded to Shristi’s email and gave her the contact person that would help bypass the rule of being 18 to start a club.

“I got to start my club! Our first supervisor was Sophia Blitz who was our math teacher at the time and also had software engineering experience, so it was a lot of fun. Now my co-facilitator is Anne McCollum, a Computer Science professor at Maharishi International University.”

Learning How to Lead

The club not only attracted girls from Maharishi School but some were traveling from surrounding towns to attend, as well as home schools and the local public school.

“I enjoyed meeting people from all around the area, we are open to anyone willing to travel. There’s a saying in the GWC organization, be a guide on the side, not sage on the stage. I took that to heart during my first year of teaching because it’s not about me lecturing them as much as it’s a collaboration. We teach each other and learn together.”

Each year the 6th-12th grade girls have a goal to create a project that benefits the local community in some way, while the 3-5th grade girls learn the fundamentals of computer science. Once they decide on a project they learn the necessary technology to build it.

“The first year we wanted to raise awareness about food insecurity and how much food goes to waste. We made an IOS Apple game, it was very simple. You have a trash can on the bottom of the screen, then there are fruits and hamburgers falling from the sky. The goal is to make sure the fruit doesn’t fall into the trash and every time you lose you’re faced with a statistic or fact about what you can do to decrease food insecurity and increase sustainability.”

“I had never made an IOS app before so I had to teach myself Swift, which is a programming language. Then I had to teach the other girls how to use it as well. We had to get verified and pay a $99 setup fee. Through GWC I learned about how to write grants and how to get funding.”

The Culture of Girls Who Code

For the 18 girls this year, it’s more than just a club. It’s a sisterhood. Not only do they learn complex coding languages but they celebrate holidays, and sometimes throw a party just because they feel like it! Shristi explains, “I’m a big foodie and I like to have snacks at every meeting. I think food brings people together, so every week we have a fun snack. It’s a club and extra circular but it’s become more than that. In GWC you find a group of friends. You meet people who you would never usually talk to. I’ve learned a lot about how to manage and work with different people.”

“The whole reason I’m doing this club is that; I’m a self-taught programmer and I understand how difficult it is to get yourself up and running on your own. I’m doing it because I like coding and I enjoy it, it’s a hobby of mine. As a girl in coding, you’re on a different playing field and it’s not always equal. There’s a lot of discrimination and prejudice. I’ve faced some of that too. GWC is about having a community of female coders that can support each other while learning a challenging subject.”

GWC exists to close that gender gap in the technology profession. Shristi explained that while younger girls are excited and curious about STEM-related fields, that interest is diminished when they become a teenager and are told: “this is not a field for girls, it’s a guy thing.” The whole point of GWC is to overcome this challenge and flip that thinking so more women are normalized in programming.

https://www.websiteplanet.com/blog/the-empowering-guide-for-women-in-tech/

 

 

 

 

 

“We need more women in programming. Especially women of color, because technology has taken over the world. It’s pervasive in every single field, and being able to code and create those technologies is an extremely useful skill to have. It’s also important that we have diversity represented in the room when we’re coding because if we don’t, then we can’t cater to those populations in the end. Products and tools are being made that are not taking into account the female perspective. So that’s why I feel it’s important to emphasize diversity and create an environment for younger girls to thrive. That way they can feel supported enough to pursue this as an actual career opportunity.”

What Shristi learned from GWC

“I’ve had to work with all sorts of girls over the last four years and it’s been amazing for me to open up my bubble. I’m a naturally introverted person. Through GWC I’ve learned to lead in a way that I’m not overpowering others but I’m also not letting things stray off course. Especially with the younger girls because I have to come up with creative lesson plans that are fun and engaging. Taking incredibly difficult concepts and breaking them down into simple step-by-step solutions is a skill I’ve had to learn. That has helped me help them be more interested in what they’re doing and have fun.”

“Because of GWC, I’ve become more confident in my ability to have an impact. For example, there was a girl at the beginning of the year who was ready to give up. I worked through the issue with her and calmed down her frustrations. Once I got her to a successful point with her work, she then turned to her friends to help them out. It was such a powerful moment for me because I helped her and her immediate thought is to then help her friends with the same problem. I love that I can have a domino effect in that way.”

“Moments like that encouraged my participation in interact which is a Rotary club for youth. We do community service projects in Fairfield and internationally. I also joined the Student Council in high school and am president this year, so I’ve taken on a lot of leadership positions. Because of what I learned in GWC, I now enjoy the idea of being able to make small impacts that can snowball and help people on a grander scale.”

Future projects for GWC

This year because of covid the Fairfield community has been missing our “First Friday Artwalks” in the town square. The older GWC club decided that their community impact project this year will be to create a website where local artists can upload what they’ve been doing to an online gallery. The girls will also create a 3D map. This way you can virtually walk around the square and click on all the various shops to see coupons and different ways that you can support local businesses during this time.

Shristi says that the girls are currently learning the necessary skills to be able to create this and she hopes to be finished with it by the end of this school year.

“Through this whole process, we are learning industry-level concepts that real software developers use when they’re working in their companies. The main goal is to go through that process. No matter the end results, no matter how polished or perfect it is, we are proud to have a product that reflects what all that we have learned throughout the year.”

 

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To learn more about Girls Who Code watch this video: