What do you do after launching satellites?

by TOMOYA SHIMURA

Two Irvine High School girls have formed a robotics club that’s turning human heads — and mechanical arms.

Seniors Shirley Shah and Phoebe Lin met last year while launching a satellite into space with the Irvine Unified School District’s CubeSat program. They decided to build on that experience and ended up creating the district’s first robotics competition club.

At their opening meet with FIRST Robotics Competition (that’s the Olympics of high school robotics), they finished second among rookie teams.

“That made us realize you can do anything as long as you have that drive to do so,” Lin said.

Their success epitomizes the quality of Irvine’s public education, particularly the opportunities for students to pursue their passion for science and technology.

The Irvine High School robotics team develops software to operate a robot for the FIRST Robotics Competition.

When the girls signed up for that first competition, they were given six weeks to build a robot and three weeks to raise $6,000 to compete.

The Irvine community came to their rescue.

Archana Jain, a math and engineering teacher at Irvine High who previously worked in the aerospace industry, became the club’s adviser and helped recruit students. Parents with expertise in engineering and marketing became mentors. Local businesses signed on as sponsors.

“The biggest lesson we learned is that it’s not only about the robot,”

Shah said. “It’s about community outreach. It’s about fundraising. And it’s about relationships.”

Their team, Mythic Mechanix, is ready to make another leap this year.

“In Irvine, we emphasize STEM in our schools,” Lin said. “The community also gives us a lot of support and the funds we need for a great education. I’m so grateful to live in Irvine.”