Student Engineers at Harrison

By Peter Gallegos and Veronica Torres

Our goal at PLTW is to teach students to develop the job related skills they will need for the careers of the future.”  PLTW Site

 There currently is a shortage of engineers in the United States and PLTW schools are addressing that shortage. PLTW students at Harrison are not only learning engineering skills, they are learning the skills needed to communicate and persevere. Communication and critical thinking are skills you will find in any Project Lead the Way (PLTW) classroom. Harrison students have learned to communicate with classmates and other, more experienced engineering teams they have met at competitions to refine and improve on their designs. For example in the picture below, one of the students in Harrison’s PLTW class is discussing strategies with high school students from Tracy.

Img of students discussing robots

A student from Harrison discusses robot strategies with high school students from Tracey.

Two and a half years into the program Harrison students are first and second out of 25 competitors in the VEX League Robotics Competitions, and just qualified for the state championships! The VEX League consist of both high school and middle school teams.

Standings in Vex robotics

Students from Harrison dominated the robotic competition.

What is a VEX competition?

First, students find out about the game. Different games require robots with different capabilities. The game consists of  a 15 sec. autonomous round, where the robot works on its own, with no human interaction. Then a student driver will take control of the robot for 1 minute and 45 seconds. Robots operate depending on codes written by students.  Robots earn points by moving mobile bases into 5, 10, 20 point zones. The robots also earn points by stacking cones to create the highest stacks in each zone.

Once students understand the specifics of the game, the students design a robot in their engineering notebooks. Students have to program remote controllers to work with their robots. The students then build a robot to their own specifications, making adjustments along the way. For example, lifting and flipping motions must be programed into the robot.


Once the robot is built, the students prepare for competition. They refine and practice their skills  to get ready for competitions.


The engineering team at Harrison is co-ed  and students see themselves as future engineers. Here Harrison girls are taking notes and collaborating at the SJ County Delta College Vex Competition, learning from each other.

image of students at a robot competition

Harrison students taking notes at a robot competition

Students are trouble shooting a robot motor running the wrong way.




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