STEM, Industry and
Tech Partners

A conversation with David Stout, Robotics Program Director and Volunteer

Background

My undergraduate degree is in biology and management. I worked at UCLA in many capacities as a particle accelerator physicist and a radio chemist. I designed and created an imaging center for use with medical imaging as well as designing and building many of the imaging scanners. I also taught courses on bioluminescence and imaging. I’m actively designing and building parts with my partner for various companies. I spend a lot of time here because the kids really want to be here. 

What makes CCUSD unique? It is a small district in a tight-knit community that has access to board members, mentors and industry partners.. In our robotics program, students use engineering skills to write software, program the computer, and assemble the motors. They model in CAD, print in 3D, engrave with laser cutters, weld, metalwork, woodwork, install electronics like LED lighting, and paint the robot. Doing these makes them proud of their work. Less obvious, the students do web design, fundraising and budgeting. Software design leads to several career paths. Hardware design requires mentors, such as helping students learn how to install sensors. 3D modeling and printing leads to career opportunities as well, while video production for publicity is another skill that we build.

Describe your vision for the robotics program: Implementing robotics at the middle school level, that way students enter high school robotics already having some knowledge. Currently some do come with knowledge and experience learned from either their parents or from a LEGO league. El Rincon Elementary School has a LEGO league and El Marino Elementary School has a great space for LEGO major team leagues. It would be great to see makerspaces and mentor-led programs at all school levels. 

What does the learning progression look like in robotics? There are four primary disciplines within robotics and a sub team for each. When students apply, they indicate which sub team that they want to be on. The captain knows what all the teams are doing. A sophomore will spend the year learning what all sub teams do. Ninth graders want to play more, but by the time they are seniors, they often evolve into team members who are mature and quietly lead by example. 

How should the environment change or look different in the future? Robotics is a student-run club. All five classes for teaching safety are student led. The students handle all the logistics related to the competition and scheduling. These students learn from each other and pass their skills to the whole team. 

I have a vision for the team where the kids will take over all the time management and project management instead of flying by the seat of their pants. We need a leader for this team that can do the big picture work. This person would be someone who motivates the kids to be the best that they can be and encourages them to be more creative with what they can do.