Every weekend for the last two months 34 Chilean school students of different ages from private, public and subsidized schools work day and night with computers and aluminum in a workshop located in downtownSantiago. It is not mandatory schoolwork, but rather their biggest dream: to participate in the First Robotics Competition (FRC) again and to come in first place in the world’s most important robotics competition, organized by the NASA.
They are Corazón de Chileno, a pioneering educational robotics team in Chile that was formed four years ago and whose efforts and perseverance have earned them major achievements, such as the UNAB inter-school robotics competition and the national FIRST Lego League.
But that’s not all. The group’s efforts in the 2008 world championship earned it the “Rookie Inspiration Award,” a prize that not only filled them with pride, but that also allowed them to participate in the 2010 World Championship directly without going through any qualifiers, other than having participated in at least one previous regional event.
While they have their lodging guaranteed at this latter event to be held in Los Angeles, United States, money is one of their greatest concerns so they can attend the finals that will be held in the second week of April in Atlanta, as they need 24 million pesos. “We had been talking with the president of the previous administration, but the earthquake prevented us from clinching sponsors,” comments José Ignacio Fernández, mentor and founder of “Corazón de Chileno” and a civil engineering student at the Universidad Andrés Bello.
John Santos, the robot
These kids are in such urgent need of funding that they were on the verge of failing to attend the regional meet in Los Angeles. However, they received economic support from a computing firm thanks to the bonds of friendship that the group forged with the US team Roboskunk and its leader John Santos in 2008, which is where the robot got its name from.
In early March the machine, which cost close to 6 million pesos and is made with cylinders, condensers and connectors, was sent to the competition via FedEx, which also donated money equivalent to part of the shipment. The championship this year will have to do with football and has been titled “Breakaway.”
“There are close to 1,500 teams like “Corazón de Chileno” around the world and of them 1,200 are in the United States, which means that it is a great merit for Chile, which is so isolated, to be competing,” Fernández explains about his team, which stands out in Latin America as one of the strongest communities in the league.
“The importance of Corazón de Chileno winning the FRC this year has nothing to do with money. It will help us to foster a technology culture in the country and, above all, to show that dreams can come true with a work dynamics, hard effort, dedication and commitment,” Fernández concludes.
If you’re interested in making an economic contribution to this team of talented young people, you can do so on their website www.corazondechileno.cl. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter to find out how they do in the regional competition.