San Diego robotics competition gives hope for the future of science education

Defending champs from San Pasqual High School

SAN DIEGO - Nearly 1,500 students have converged in San Diego to compete for top honors in robot creation.

Sixty teams will be creating 60 robots in the 7th annual San Diego Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at the Valley View Casino Center, with the winner advancing to the national competition in April.

In this competition, high school students from Southern California and Mexico represent an answer to the problem of declining interest and test scores in science.

In 2011, California eighth graders scoring at or above proficient in science averaged 19 percent among white, black and Hispanic students.

The robotics competitors aren't just building for the future, they're breaking down stereotypes.

"It's always interesting to see a boy stand back and watch a girl use a tool or watch a girl figure something out that they can't figure out," said Aubrey Pound, a senior at San Pasqual High School in Escondido.

Pound is referring to herself and girls like Emma Dumont, who is captain of the Thunderbots from Burbank.

Dumont, who stars on the ABC Family show "Bunheads," said, "It's super fun and it's something I have a passion for."

She acknowledged she couldn't do what she does in Hollywood without technology, adding, "The men and women I work with that are on our crew are just amazing and I look up to them because they're building stuff every day."

Also in the competition are the defending champions from San Pasqual High School, the Supernurds.

Team captain Josh Warren, a budding mechanical engineer, said building robots isn't just for science nerds.

"We've had kids come into the club, they've never touched a screwdriver in their life and at the end of the year they know way more than they thought they would," said Warren.

Josh's dad, Jeff, is a software engineer and a team mentor.

"You can be a professional who can really give back to society as well, and you can be well-compensated for doing that," Jeff Warren said.

Josh said the robotics competition is "labeled the varsity sport of the mind."

Qualifying matches for the event begin Friday. The event is free and kids are encouraged to attend.

For more information on the event, click here.

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