AZTECH Robotics Team 6479 of Corona del Sol High School Named as Finalists for 2021 Global Innovation Awards

Congratulations to the AZTECH Robotics Team 6479 of Corona del Sol High School for being named as one of 20 teams to represent FIRST Robotics AZTECH Robotics Team 6479 Competition at the 2021 Global Innovation Awards. The awards ceremony will take place virtually via FIRSTtv on June 30, 2021, at 2:30 PM (EST).

The 20 finalist teams from each program have also been invited to participate in three days of remote workshops designed to develop knowledge and skill sets, allow students to experience individualized mentorship, and more. Team 6479 was particularly excited for the opportunity to meet with Disney engineers, and learn more about the engineering behind animatronics. Within each program, top-selected teams will also receive exclusive prizes from sponsors in front of a global audience of peers, sponsors, and industry leaders during the awards ceremony. 

AZTECH Robotics Team 6479 is a student-run robotics club, sponsored by FIRST Robotics 2021 Teacher of the Year and 2021 Arizona Affiliate Educator Awards Honorable Mention Award for NCWIT Aspiration in Computing, Stephen Heiser. The team is composed of 31 students, broken down into multiple sub-teams such as Programming, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Mechanical, Business, and Public Relations. Most of the team members also specialize in many areas to create a highly talented and collaborative environment that allows them to participate in opportunities like the FIRST Innovation Challenge, which they are gaining national recognition for this year. 

Team 6479 was also tasked with overcoming the challenges of a global pandemic and living in a virtual world. Their innovation was completed in an entirely virtual setting, and the team’s members were not all in person together at one point during the process. Heiser emphasized how proud he was of the team’s achievements and the success this school year has brought them by emphasizing the importance of the culture they have created. “We aren’t changing the world, we’re creating the people who will,” he said.

Swish! ConnectTeam 6479 is one of the FIRST Robotics Competition Innovation Challenge Finalists for their Innovation, Swish! Connect. Teams who participated in the FIRST Innovation Challenge had to design a solution, create a business model and pitch their idea, and advance their skills by using technology as part of the process. Inspired by the season’s sports and fitness theme, teams explore the invention and innovation process through identifying a problem or opportunity to help people and communities keep, regain, or achieve optimum physical and/or mental health and fitness through active play or other forms of movement.

As mentioned in the Swish! Connect business pitch video, it aims to help special-education children engagingly develop their motor skills, helping their ability to easily and independently complete daily tasks. There are three key components of this project: an auto-adjusting basketball hoop, an app, and a website. The hoop moves relative to the ball, increasing the chances of making a shot, facilitating higher motivation. The hoop is also paired with an app, which adjusts the hoop in real-time and collects data on overall accuracy. This data is then synced with a therapist dashboard on the website, allowing long-term tracking of user progress and gives activity suggestions to improve lacking motor skills.

Seven AZTECH Team 6479 members worked on this Innovation project: Tishya Chhabra, Michelle Chen, Aaliyah Herndon, Corbin Tinnin, Arvin Jha, Leo Wilson, and Kelly Raines. The team shared that their collaborative atmosphere enabled them to do their part individually, and come together to merge everything cohesively. The group of seven also expressed that the remaining team members who were not directly involved brought great perspective for their project, and truly deserve the credit and recognition they are receiving as a team. Each member contributed to each function like Jha in assisting in writing the business pitch and presentation, Raines developing the models for their app and website, Chen and Herndon working with every mini team, Chhabra developing the business plan and connecting the team with vital mentors, Wilson executing all software planning for a possible subscription service, and Tinnin who developed their three-dimension CAD on his own.

The students are justifiably proud of the importance of their innovation, not only to their team but to the special education community. They experienced frustration early on in ideation, but the common denominator was always an emphasis on making a long-lasting impact. Team 6479 is also proud to have strong mentor support from teachers, parents of team members, and industry professionals.

TUHSD Physical Therapist Amanda Renfrow was a major inspiration behind the idea for their Innovation. After having discussions with Renfrow, the team realized the common struggle amongst special education students regardless of disability was their motor skills. The majority of special education students between the ages of 12 and 20 only reach 55% mastery in motor skills, which limits their independence. The students were able to identify this need and incorporate features like badges users achieve to keep them motivated to keep coming back, and adding audio of cheers and applause when they make a shot as a reward. The biggest feature that helps promote autonomy is the technology will detect if the user is improving and adjust less each time, so they can see that they truly don’t need the assistance of the hoop. 

On top of the team’s Innovation success, their newly-elected and first female President for the 2021-22 school year, Tishya Chhabra, was named as a Dean’s List Award Winner by FIRST Robotics Competition! This is the first time in the team’s history and TUHSD history that a student has been given this honor. Winners are nominated and described as great examples of student leaders who have led their communities to increased awareness for STEM. Chhabra spoke about what this honor means to her and beamed that she was not expecting to be 1 of 4 selected from the Southwest Region. Heiser shared that he sat in on her interview, and “logged off to immediately tell his wife that he knew she would win because of the magnitude of her impact beyond the club”. 

Her bubbly personality and passion for motivating women to join STEM have led her to her President position for the 2021-22 school year. Aside from her presidency, Chhabra won the 2021 Arizona Affiliate Honorable Mention Award for NCWIT Aspirations in Computing and is also starting a Girls Who Code club at Corona for the next school year. Girls Who Code is a national club that aims to close the gender gap in programming, and our TUHSD branch is hosting summer sessions for the 18 girls across the District who are learning skills and developing a curriculum to take to their school-based clubs. First-year member Hernon shared how being a part of this team with Chhabra has shaped her passion for STEM. She has decided to major in Computer Science at Arizona State University next year because Team 6479 has shown her that “STEM is not just for boys. Half of our [Innovation] team is female, and truly anyone can be involved. I really hope I get the chance to come back and mentor. I can show others that I know they can do it because I’ve done it myself”.

Team 6479 has come a long way since its foundation and has since become one of the top teams in Arizona which has opened them up to incredible opportunities to continue to impact their community. The team’s biggest goals for next year are centered around solidifying the longevity of the club at Corona and increasing the inclusion of women in STEM. To combat these pressing circumstances, the team has partnered with Mariposa Elementary School to develop a FIRST LEGO League team to participate in international competitions organized by FIRST for elementary and middle school students. Their partnership will allow Team 6479 to mentor and educate young students, while also raising students who will be attracted to continuing Robotics in high school and beyond!    

Be sure to follow AZTECH Team 6479 on their Twitter and Instagram accounts, and also check out their awesome Team 6479 website, to keep up with their growing list of accomplishments. Congratulations AZTECH Robotics Team 6479, and good luck at the 2021 Global Innovation Awards!