Stand Aside, R2D2: PG&E Helps Innovators of Tomorrow Test Robot-Making Skills

OAKLAND — More than 70 teams of middle and high school students recently gathered to show off their robot-making skills.

And helping them this past weekend was PG&E and 11 other utilities as part of the “Get Into Energy, Get Into STEM” program.

Before the FIRST Tech Challenge West Super-Regional Championship, teams spent months designing, engineering and building their unique robots to compete in task-oriented challenges.

Each robot is remote-controlled and is tasked with challenges such as collecting items of various shapes and sizes and climbing a steep incline.

To help the teams succeed, PG&E employees staffed a Doctor Robot station where employees diagnosed and fixed malfunctioning robots, ensuring each robot was at its best before entering the ring.

“The kids are really encouraged to explore their creativity and teamwork skills, and it shows in their robotic designs,” said Dave McCall, a PG&E engineer based in Oakland who assisted as a robot doctor. “I’m blown away by how elaborate and well thought out the event is with big banners and booths with candy and costumes; and it is all volunteer-based.”

Geisha Williams, president, PG&E Electric, who helped celebrate the teams in the closing ceremony, announced that the company is expanding its support this year with a $50,000 grant to Playing at Learning. The grant will help support local teams as they prepare for future competitions.

“PG&E is a proud supporter of FIRST and other STEM programs because we believe these promising students are the leaders, dreamers and innovators of tomorrow,” Williams said. “The energy industry needs them, our communities need them and California needs them.”

Vulcan, a team based in San Mateo that is heading to the national competition in St. Louis in April, is ready to take that charge.

“It is extremely satisfying to our team to have made it so far in only our second year and we can’t wait for our future successes,” said Louis Villa, Vulcan team member.


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