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Service Learning in Action with RAID ZERO Robotics in Upper School

Service Learning in Action with RAID ZERO Robotics in Upper School

An incredible service-learning experience has returned to TAS after a COVID-19 hiatus!  

In 2018, the government organization Central Taiwan Science Park funded a training session led by the TAS Robotics team, RAID ZERO, at their AI facility in Taichung. TAS students offered a 2-day training for 22 schools across Taiwan. This resulted in 22 new robotics teams on the island and led to Taiwan being able to host their own FRC Robotics Competition. 

With the completion of the Tech Cube, TAS was positioned for another amazing year of island-wide robotics collaboration before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fast forward a few years, and as we have seen the end of pandemic restrictions on travel and gathering, along with the revival of this amazing project led by our RAID ZERO team. 

A few things have changed since 2018. First, the Taipei City Government Department of Education (TCG DoE) learned about this project and took great interest in this student-led learning opportunity. They contacted TAS to collaborate and organize the funding for a new workshop. 

As part of their initial work, our students investigated the need for relevant training on robot design, fabrication, and programming, as well as electrical engineering, for students across Taiwan. How could the teams, established in 2018, continue to develop, and what kind of time, resources, and training were needed to continue expanding youth robotics in Taiwan? 

To prepare for this project, our students work across several classes during their Upper School experience. From their first class in the Tech Cube, students learn technical skills, such as design and fabrication, programming, and electronics, that they internalize and transfer through the training modules.  A large part of the focus of these classes is also soft skills – learning to work in groups, negotiate and solve problems collaboratively, respectful and inclusive communication, and how to add value to a team while simultaneously relying on team members. Students learn to set 3-week goals to help forecast the progress of the project. The goals are reviewed every three weeks to compare the projects' progress with actual progress, which helps the students refine and improve their goal-setting skills.  These skills prepare our students to take on this service experience successfully!

In planning for the 2024 RAID ZERO experience, students had to review the successful 2018 program and design an updated training for the TCG DoE. This included crucial research on affordable materials to help new schools create sustainable programs, and organizing requests to the TCG DoE for the space, funds, and logistic support to host a large-scale robotics training for students from across Taiwan.  

Their goal? To use this training to establish another 20 robotics teams across Taiwan and bring back the Taiwan Regional Robotics Competition, part of the FIRST Robotics Competition league. 

The preparation phase required hours of research, planning, and inquiry from our students. Supported by faculty, they first polled the different schools with robotics programs around Taiwan to understand what they most wanted to learn about during this event. With their peer school's goals in mind, they assessed the existing resources at these schools; from there, our students used this data to design applicable training plans.

Thanks to their clearly articulated plans, research, and connection to the real needs of both students across Taiwan and of the island itself, our students received funding approval from the TCG DoE. This allowed the next phase of the project to begin!

Beginning in December 2023, the students put their plans into action. On December 7, 2023, they welcomed over 120 students from across the island to an initial training session at TAS. After a tour of the campus, the students broke out into small groups, working across three floors of the Tech Cube to work on essential components of robotics.

One session included learning to use Onshape, a newer, web-based CAD design software that is free for students to use, and accessible to a wide range of schools. Another session focused on electrical wiring for the FRC bots, another on autonomous path planning for the programmers, and another on basic fabrication techniques to build a sturdy frame. 

In addition to the (sometimes literal) nuts and bolts, students learned about how to lead outreach efforts and develop basic strategy in competition. Matt Fagen gave a talk on the importance of good sportsmanship and the spirit of collaboration in FRC (even with your opponents), and the importance of valuing and listening to your teammates' perspectives.

The next phase of the students’ plan is a workshop with even more students in the Y17 building in the early fall of 2024. Our students will design a large-scale (70kg) robot using mostly parts that are readily available in Taiwan and share this design with their fellow students at other schools. This design will make growing robotics programs sustainable for local teams and help them keep their programs running steadily after these events are finished.

The Taipei City Government Department of Education will support this project through the purchase of all materials and by hosting the event at the Y17 facility. Our faculty are working closely with partners in the USA to help facilitate negotiations for parts that need to be shipped from overseas! 

During this two-day training event, our students will demonstrate their learning by delivering sessions on the key components of a robotics program. These sessions will be informed by their work and reflection on the sessions that took place in December 2023. 

TAS is excited and grateful that the Taipei City Government has agreed to partner with our students, and that they trust our Tigers to plan and deliver this content based on the success of the 2018 initiative. Our students hope to evaluate the success of this initiative by creating more local robotics teams and, ultimately, by having a local regional robotics competition. More teams means more opportunities, making this type of hands-on STEM programming more accessible to a larger number of students across Taiwan. Our students will provide data and information to help support future work, and ultimately hope to encourage the Ministry of Education to fund the Taiwan regional robotics competitions in the future to serve students all over the island. 

Happily, TAS has one of the best venues for student robotics anywhere in the world, and our Tech Cube will continue to provide opportunities for scrimmages and in-house training existing local teams as they prepare for the upcoming competition season.

Thank you to our dedicated students, fantastic faculty and staff, and to the Taipei City Government, Department of Education, and Ministry of Education for all that they do to support STEM education in Taiwan! We are very, very proud of you, Tigers!