Not long after Madera High School won the first ever robotics championship in Houston last April, Ignacio Negrete thought to himself that he should work on forming one.
Negrete, who works as a desktop technician in the IT department at the Madera County Library, decided he would create one that kids could join and get in on the robotics craze.
“I used the wind from their sails,” Negrete said. “While the hype was up is when I presented it to our friends at the library group and that way they were still in the awe of, ‘okay, the high school just won the world championships’ and I wanted to keep that around and the way we can help support that team is by trying to influence and inspire the younger kids.”
Negrete is the founder and coach of robotics teams for the library, which finished its first season in November.
The library consists of teams of six, named the Tiny Tinkers, the Page Benders and Short Circuits, with the kids ranging from ages six to 10, that competed in the first Lego League Jr., a non-competitive league in which the participants were tasked with constructing a building out of Legos. The teams compete with others from the Central Valley.
“Throughout, we were learning architectural concepts and putting them to work with Lego bricks,” Negrete said.
During the competition, the team members used an iPad and were taught minor programming skills, Negrete said.
The library also has two more teams, those for kids aged 10-14, that competed in the first Lego League, a competitive league.
At this level, Negrete said, the team members were tasked with developing a research project with a solution to a city problem given to them by a city engineer, which they put into practice with Legos.
The teams, named the Word Warriors and Golden Apples, were given at least eight weeks to work on a project that would address and provide solutions to different water issues in the city.
The teams’ research projects were developing a robot that would detect erosion in water pipes and either fix the problem itself through 3D printing or notify a city engineer to fix it if it is in dire need of repair.
The Golden Apples team focused on plugging drains near a sewer by creating a water jet that would push out any debris along with an arm that would clean out what the jet couldn’t.
The teams competed in a qualifying competition in November, with the top seven of the 22 teams advanced to a regional competition and then a national competition.
The Golden Apples were the top finishing team for the Madera Library, finishing 12th.
And although the teams didn’t move on to the regionals, Negrete said that they represent more than just a competition.
“I’m a desktop support technician and to be able to inspire the younger generation to go toward the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to hopefully become an engineer, architect, another desktop support, anything in the computer sciences, is very gratifying to me,” Negrete said. “I know that I sparked that interest and they are going to do great things.”