HomeBlocksFront-GridIn Houston, Crescenta Valley Falkon Robotics Takes on the World

In Houston, Crescenta Valley Falkon Robotics Takes on the World

Crescenta Valley High School’s robotics team, Falkon Robotics, competed in the 2024 FIRST Championship, an international robotics competition in Houston, alongside 600 teams from across the world from April 17 through April 20.
Making it to the championship is no small feat.
Falkon Robotics qualified for the FIRST Championship after finishing second in the regional contest and following a competition season in which CVHS robotics students and teachers earned multiple awards for their excellence.
During the global competition, teams are randomly placed into divisions made up of around 75 teams to compete with before the competition is ultimately narrowed down ahead of the final round. Though Falkon Robotics did not advance to the final round of the championship weekend, the team was grateful for the opportunity to participate and for the chance to meet and learn from other students interested in robotics.
“Students put tons and tons of effort into this robotics team and it was really nice to see that they were rewarded for that and were able to go on this trip,” said Jacob Poole, a teacher at CVHS and a mentor for the Falkon Robotics. “Even getting to the world championships alone was a feat on its own.”
Ethan Lee, a junior on the team, earned the Dean’s List Finalist Award for his leadership skills at the Ventura County Regional FIRST Robotics Competition on March 9 and 10, an event where the team also collectively won the Engineering Inspiration Award.
The team also received the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award, which was given to Poole for being an outstanding mentor, and the Imagery Award for visual aesthetic integration from the Orange County Regional FIRST Robotics Competition on March 29 and 30. Forty-eight teams competed for these distinctions.
CVHS senior Renee Limonadi, the director of external operations and a driver for the team, explained that the team, which is made up of more than 100 students, practices for 15-20 hours per week after school.
To try to be as accommodating to students’ schedules as possible, Falkon Robotics has “an open-door policy,” meaning team members can help out in whatever capacity works best for them, though more commitment is required of team leaders.
Getting as many students involved, as well as creating a balance between grade levels, is important for maintaining the team’s transition year to year as seniors graduate.
Logan Yee, who is a junior at CVHS and the social chair for the Falkons, was happy to see an influx of younger students join the team this year.
“This year, we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the team,” Yee said. “It’s nice for the seniors and the juniors to be able to pass down what they’ve learned from the team to these people who will hopefully do the same in the future.”
Switching from a more mentor-driven team structure to a student-led leadership model last year has allowed students on the Falkon Robotics team to build something they are proud of. Poole championed this change in hopes of strengthening students’ problem-solving skills and to boost their confidence levels, while also giving them the opportunity to highlight their leadership positions on future resumes and college applications.
Keenan Walsh, who is the electronics and pneumatics representative and a driver for the team, said he appreciates this structure immensely, noting that students get a lot more out of the experience if they have more responsibility.
“This year, a lot of what the mentors were doing was just giving us questions to think about and then letting us really tackle the problems head on and letting us figure out the solutions,” the senior said. “Our leadership structure has really helped students get help from each other.”
Limonadi, Walsh and Yee all said that being a part of the robotics team is more like being a part of a family.
Having completed most of middle school during COVID with online learning, Yee said that jumping back into in-person learning as a freshman in high school was a big adjustment, and proved to be overwhelming at first.
“To say that robotics has changed my high school experience is an understatement because when I first joined high school, I didn’t really know what the middle school experience was, let alone what the high school experience was; I was kind of still an elementary student at heart,” Yee said. “But when I joined robotics, it was so welcoming, like having a second family that is always there for me.”
Aside from spending so much time together practicing, the team also hosts a weekly Friday potluck “just for fun,” Limonadi said.
“We didn’t really have a freshman year because it was all online. So I didn’t really know what I was doing class or friend wise,” Limonadi said. “Doing robotics really gave me that opportunity to have a really solid group of friends.”
Walsh said he too felt a bit lost returning to school after COVID, recalling when he used to sit alone at lunch, unsure of where he belonged.
“But when I joined robotics, I was instantly captivated,” Walsh said. “I knew that robotics was where I wanted to go because everybody was so welcoming. People actually remembered my name, which was insane.”
While joining robotics equips students with the technical and design knowledge of how to build robots, students also learn about outreach and fundraising as they must secure sponsors and partnerships to help fund their projects.
To learn more about Falkon Robotics, visit cvrobots.com.

About 40 students on the Falkon Robotics team traveled to Houston last weekend to compete in the international 2024 FIRST Championship.

First published in the April 27 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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