By Oliver Kaplan
Junior Wilder Buchanan, a member of the robotics team, has succeeded in incorporating his interest in mechanics and robotics with serving the greater Los Angeles community.
In May 2016, Buchanan met with Compton School District Superintendent Darin Brawley. They discussed the lack of after school programs available to high schools in the district, and Buchanan offered to help organize teams that would introduce students to the world of robotics.
Since then, Buchanan has set up 10 teams with the help of juniors Steve Cox, Etienne Lunetta, and Kevin Mardirossian, and seniors Kobe Cuevas and Chris Lewis. Together, they have created a curriculum and are teaching the teachers who, in turn, teach the kids who attend schools without the necessary resources the basics of robotics. By training the teachers, the program can continue to be sustainable once the Loyola students leave for college.
The program has been implemented into five schools: Compton High School, Dominguez High School, Inglewood High School, Morningside High School and Centennial High School.
Through his discussions with Brawley, Buchanan learned that there was a lack of programs for kids interested in activities other than athletics. By introducing his robotics program, Buchanan helped provide many students with an opportunity to find a meaningful and intellectual hobby that can lead to future careers and opportunities.
Principal Frank Kozakowski said “this is not a problem unique to robotics,” that there are also certain areas in society without basic education, medicine, or food. For example, the same area in which there were no robotics programs, there is also an inadequate number of medical facilities and supermarkets. As Kozakowski said, “You could drive down a particular street and cross ten liquor stores before you get to a supermarket.”
Kozakowski hopes Buchanan’s idea for a robotics program in Compton and Inglewood will spark more ideas for improvements to the community, such as more medical facilities and food markets.
Buchanan’s initiative to start the program was not based on the focus of fulfilling community service requirements. But, Loyola recognizes Buchanan’s efforts as a service project and rewards him and the other students involved with service hours. The students involved are part of a FIRST Tech Challenge team started by Buchanan last year.
According to Kozakowski, “Their work is a great example of what Loyola guys can do, and I’m very proud of them.” Additionally, Kozakowski mentioned how difficult it is to put together a program of this kind without funding and aid.
To put it in perspective, Kozakowski said that “in some school districts, if you want to change your textbook for a U.S. history class, it takes two years. That they could get this started in five high schools in the matter of three or four months is amazing.”
In the upcoming year, Buchanan plans to organize four separate tournaments for the teams in the Compton and Inglewood school district, where they will build robots to compete in “basketball type activities.” Their hope is that these events will generate enough interest from the community to bring audiences to observe and learn from the events.
There is also an opportunity for Loyola students to get involved by mentoring at the tournaments. Buchanan hopes that his robotics program continues to grow in its ability to help serve the communities in need.