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Alba-Rivera mentors next generation of robotics competitors

Gabe Alba-Rivera teaches Loyola Academy scholars robotics

By Aakash Jain ’14 and Brett Mejia ’13
THE ROUNDUP

Photo by Aakash Jain '14 - Loyola students participate in robotics after school in Loyola hall on Nov. 15.

Since the beginning of his junior year, Gabe Alba-Rivera ’13 has been teaching a group of Loyola Academy students the finer points of robotics.

“The first day of junior year I remember when they gave us a speech at the gym about the new year. Ms. Krause was there and she told us we could get involved,” Alba-Rivera said. “That day I approached Mr. Ryan and told him I wanted to start a robotics club at Loyola. In about two weeks we started kicking off.”

Alba-Rivera meets with the seventh grade Loyola scholars on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, while Michael Sanchez ’13 and Omar Moreno ’15 work with sixth graders on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The sixth graders are preparing for a Lego competition, which will take place in December.

Presently, the seventh graders are working on a variety of projects.

“This year the seventh graders have two aspects to the team,” Alba-Rivera said. “One aspect is every other week we go to the Microsoft store in Fashion Square and they do robot soccer showcase matches there. Meanwhile, when they’re not there, they’re preparing for our FTC competition which will be at the beginning of next semester. And it’s a national competition and it’s at the high school level so we’ll actually be competing against Brophy.”

According to Alba-Rivera, the robotics competitions are not anything like the stereotypical image of people “just sitting, programming and tightening bolts.”

“The competitions usually last the entire day,” Alba-Rivera said. “The one we’re going to is actually going to be in Flagstaff … There’s a lot of enthusiasm … At the competition, people paint their faces like a football game and yell and cheer and all that so it’s pretty exciting.”

When asked about the robotics club, the Loyola students found it challenging to contain their enthusiasm.

“This is my first year in robotics and I feel really privileged to be a part of it,” said Robert Baransaka, a seventh grade Loyola student. “Gabe is a great teacher and I’ve learned so much already.”

“Robotics is just so much fun,” added Andrew Brown, another seventh grader. “I can’t wait until the competition next year, so we can beat Brophy.”

But more than competition or even robotics itself, Alba-Rivera notes that he has seen a significant change in each Loyola scholar over the time he has spent with them.

“I could talk about all of the technical improvement they’ve had and the list would be endless,” Alba-Rivera said. “But even more important than that I feel their … working together and … knowing how to come together as one … I feel that’s the greatest improvement on both their side and my side because it’s totally changed my view of robotics as well.”