Campus group wins $25,000 for hosting high school robotics competition

A UC Berkeley engineering student group won $25,000 earlier this month in a competition where Zipcar paired with the Ford Motor Company to hold a contest that awards a total of $300,000 among student organizations at qualified schools.
zipcar/Courtesy
A UC Berkeley engineering student group won $25,000 earlier this month in a competition where Zipcar paired with the Ford Motor Company to hold a contest that awards a total of $300,000 among student organizations at qualified schools.

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A UC Berkeley engineering student group won $25,000 earlier this month for reaching out to underprivileged high schools and promoting education in science, technology and engineering.

Pioneers in Engineering, a student-run engineering organization that promotes STEM education in Bay Area high schools, won the grand prize in the Zipcar Students with Drive contest for holding an annual robotics competition for local high schools.

“We were extremely happy, satisfied, surprised,” said Samuel Fung, a UC Berkeley sophomore and member of PIE. “(We were) glad our strategy to wait to the end to push ahead worked.”

PIE holds the seven-week competition, with more than 200 high school students testing robots alongside UC Berkeley undergraduate mentors in a series of challenges. George Anwar, a lecturer in the College of Engineering and faculty sponsor for PIE, has attended the robotics competition almost every year and said that, while the competition’s facilities are small, they are always packed with parents and friends.

“My hopes are that this catches on on other campuses, that other universities will follow in terms of having this as a sample,” Anwar said.

Zipcar paired with the Ford Motor Company to hold a contest that awards a total of $300,000 among student organizations in Zipcar-eligible schools to support activities in academics, arts, athletics, student life and community service. PIE was selected out of 35 groups nationwide for the grand prize competition. The grand prize winner is determined by votes on Facebook, and PIE emerged victorious with more than 4,500 votes.

Fung said PIE, competing against nationwide organization Camp Kesem, was not expecting to win. However, Fung added that the group won by about 50 votes, just scraping by with the support of their fellow UC Berkeley students.

“We really want to promote education to these underprivileged schools, and we appreciate how supportive (UC Berkeley students) are,” Fung said.

PIE received $5,000 in Zipcar credits; $10,000 in cash for the organization and $10,000 for the UC Berkeley College of Engineering. Fung said the contest money will help PIE provide robot building kits to 24 high schools and transport undergraduate mentors to teach high school students how to build the robots.

“They’re a very inspiring student group,” said Fiona Doyle, executive associate dean at the College of Engineering. “They are one of our new student groups, and they’ve grown very quickly. They’re having a lot of impact by doing outreach to schools.”

PIE will kick off its annual robotics competition on Sunday, March 2, at Lawrence Hall of Science.

Contact Tara Hurley at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Pioneers in Engineering won the grand prize with over 10,000 votes. In fact, the group won with over 4,500 votes.

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