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Napa Valley Unified School District students from American Canyon High School (ACHS) and American Canyon Middle School (ACMS) recently took home top honors at the RoboPlay Challenge and RoboPlay Video Competition held at UC Davis.

There were 19 American Canyon middle and high school teams at the competition and they earned a combined total of 20 awards out of the 46 distributed. The all-girl ACHS team won the Statewide RoboPlay 2nd Place Award and the all-boy ACHS team took the Statewide RoboPlay 3rd Place Award in their respective divisions. The ACMS team captured the Regional RoboPlay 2nd Place award.

“Despite the unprecedented difficulty of the challenges, our students did an amazing job,” said Barbara Nemko, Napa County superintendent of schools. “What impressed us the most is how hard the students worked and how they didn’t give up when things didn’t go their way. They all succeeded with their amazing hard work and collaboration.”

American Canyon Middle School (ACMS) and American Canyon High School (ACHS) have been attending the the RoboPlay Challenge for six years.

Within the Napa Valley Unified School District, American Canyon pioneered the UC Davis C-STEM curriculum in the 2013-2014 school year, which integrates coding and robotics into its Algebra and Geometry classes.

The RoboPlay Challenge is the culmination of the C-STEM program wherein teams of students apply their knowledge to program robots to accomplish certain tasks. In addition to the RoboPlay Challenge, student teams have the opportunity to create screenplays and videos starring their robots.

Student teams representing Redwood Middle School, Valley Oak High School, and Donaldson Way and Canyon Oaks elementary schools also competed in the event held on May 19.

This was the first year that an NVUSD elementary school competed in the challenge.

Kids from the elementary grades were coached and mentored by four ACHS girls as part of their club, “Girls Can Too.” The club was started by students Katrina Cole and Malaysia Hilliard to address the lack of girls in robotics.

“We think it is important for boys and girls in elementary school to be exposed to robotics,” said Cole, the club president. “This exposure eliminates the perception that coding and robotics is a ‘man’s job.’"

"By starting younger, these students are more likely not to be locked into stereotyped roles," Cole said. "Plus, imagine the potential if they start younger!”

For their leadership in helping elementary students, the four ACHS girls -- Cole, Hilliard, Alexandra Castro and Vanessa Wright -- received the Statewide Leadership Award.

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Online Editor/Calendar Editor

Samie Hartley is the Napa Valley Register online editor. Her column Simple & Sassy runs on alternating Sundays.