By Annie Cui,
Building world-class robots, participating in competitions, gaining world recognition– the robotics team is a busy enterprise, and adding to its workload are the outreach teams it creates to help benefit the community.
Every member of the Citrus Circuits team is required to be a part of one outreach team. Although the outreach project began in 2011, the outreach teams and plans have grown exponentially over the past few years.
“Community is super important because some of our most valuable resources, sponsors, and best supporters are within our community. Without outreach, there’d be no way to be successful,” sophomore Maya Brandy said.
Via the outreach program, Citrus Circuits is able to fundraise, recruit new members and supporters and overall expand their team’s success.
When first Brandy joined the Citrus Circuits team, she was taken aback by the lack of girls on the team. With no subteam to closely bond with, Brandy became inspired to take lead of the Women In STEM outreach team, also known as WiSTEM.
The WiSTEM team holds an annual lecture with various professional women in STEM fields to discuss their job experiences and controversial issues such as the gender wage gap.
Overall, the purpose of WiSTEM is to empower young girls and inspire them to be apart of the STEM career field. All of the outreach subteams serve a specific audience, allowing Citrus Circuits to give back to everyone in the community.
Citrus Circuits meets twice a week from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and the meetings are all business, despite it currently being the off-season. Programmers are focused on their laptops, builders are testing models and new members are learning the basics from their fellow teammates. However, once a week, the team dedicates 45 minutes to their outreach projects.
Besides WiSTEM, outreach subteams include the Winter Shelter app, Davis Youth Robotics, DHS engagement, Fall Workshops and Farmers Market.
Citrus Circuits utilizes its technical abilities for outreach projects such as the Winter Shelter app. The Winter Shelter app allows the police department to identify available spaces in Yolo County homeless shelters so they can direct those in need, especially during the harsher climates.
The app has been in the works for the past three years and is reaching completion this year. Junior Sam Chung, leader of the Winter Shelter app subteam, has been trying to connect with an UCD software engineer to find a server and fully launch the app.
“The overall goal is to effectively make a difference in the homeless community. However, it has been difficult trying to communicate with the shelter and the Davis police into joining forces to make the app be effectively applicable,” Chung said.
Although communication has been difficult, the programming and technical problems have been solved by the team. Chung expects the upcoming tasks to be easier than the challenges faced in the beginning with creating the app.
Junior Stephen Nichols is the leader of the Davis Youth Robotics (DYR) outreach team, a group that introduces young students into robotics and engineering. DYR runs 28 teams, over 200 students, in the Davis elementary schools, a majority of whom this year are new.
Each elementary team meets one to two times a week where Citrus Circuits members, also called mentors, guide them through basic programming and building skills. “Mentors never do it themselves, they’re just there to help [the students] grow,” Nichols said.
Nichols works closely with his teammates and advisers to host three competitions in the fall for the elementary students so they will “gain competition experience, what it’s like to be in the atmosphere and learn the value of teamwork and sportsmanship,” according to Nichols.
Lead technical mentor and mentor coordinator for DYR Mike Corsetto is amazed by the progress DYR and the outreach team in general have made since their debut.
“Outreach is the most recent addition to our mission, it wasn’t until 2013 when we outreached significantly to our community. That addition has enabled us to make more well rounded students and led to social activism,” Corsetto said.
In addition to gaining beneficial skills, the outreach projects have contributed greatly to the size of the team. According to Corsetto, there were 10 members this year solely from DYR and for the upcoming years, the numbers are expected to increase quickly.