By Vic Wintriss
“Learning how to write computer programs is something every kid should know in this age of high technology,” Third District San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts said as he opened the 6th annual International Autonomous Robot Competition at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park recently. The two-day event is sponsored by Wintriss Technical Schools, a Carmel Valley non-profit, afterschool program that teaches Java to kids starting in the 5th grade.
Corporate sponsors included CareFusion, Semantic Research, Johnson Creative Solutions, VAS Engineering, Outsource Manufacturing and General Atomics. The competition followed a full week RoboCamp where the 16 teams worked eight-hour days on their robots with a practice maze at the CareFusion facilities in Sorrento Mesa. The iARoC competition requires that the robots navigate completely autonomously without any remote control.
Wintriss Technical Schools uses volunteer Java professionals headed by lead teacher June Clarke to teach classes in the Carmel Valley classroom. These same teachers volunteered to act as judges at the competition and assign scores to the Mars Race, the Mars Maze Challenge and the Mars Gold Rush, where all 16 teams start together to find a hidden infrared beacon.
Team Wolverine Element, the Westview High School team, included Allen Wilhelm, Asia Chapman, who received a special engineering award, Gaurav Paryani, Lobna Allam, Grant Posner, Jacob Posner, with mentors Scott Rongey, Dave Craig, Bryn Bishop and Chris Bishop.
The all-volunteer team of professional judges included Paul Webber, Chief Judge, Joseph Bolerjack, Allan Schougaard, Cory Hoover, Theresa Nguyen, Deborah Lazerson, Kat On, Hansol Hong, Matt Voss, Carl Manaster, Bob Martynec, Dave Dunn, Benjamin Possolo, Mark Watson, Victoria Lin, Mark Wintersmith, Enrico Ros. Sofia Webber was the official photographer, Liberty Naud the MC and Dave Massey, Rod Schrock, Alex Gillespie were special assistants.
Team M-cubed built their own robot from scratch, an amazing feat done by Milena Chakraverti-Wuerthwein, Max Sun, and Macky Broido. Owen Gallahue and Carl Kyrillos, team Shwayze, tried to solve the maze using a complicated Java algorithm, and almost succeeded.
WTS is unique in that it is the only school in the country that teaches the Java programming language to children starting in the fifth grade. Java is one of the most popular programming languages, and is used for programming Android cell phones. The computer science advanced placement exam is also given in Java. One WTS student passed the CS AP exam in the eighth grade.
As the U. S continues to lose ground in technology, demand for computer programmers continues to increase. Economists expect a shortage of over a million programmers within the next 10 years. Girls, in particular, are underrepresented in the computer science field, and WTS offers several “Girls Rule” workshops during the year.
For more information on Wintriss Technical Schools programs, visit