Student Highlight: Arianna West

Arianna West, a senior at MC2 STEM High School, has always been fascinated by technology. “Even when I was little I would get into trouble because I would always be taking things apart to see how they worked,” she said.

Arianna channeled her ambition and has become a standout amongst her peers. Not only has she excelled as a member of Youth Technology Academy’s FIRST Robotics team, but also in her school and community.

Arianna’s extensive resume includes serving as vice president of her high school’s student council, volunteering as a “Fab Fellow” for the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM, sitting on the City Club Youth Forum Council, and was one of 150 students nominated for “Who’s Who of Cleveland Metropolitan School District” sponsored by the Rotary Club of Cleveland.

Though Arianna did not join YTA until her junior year in high school, she has been involved with robotics at her high school since her sophomore year. Arianna said she decided to join the Youth Technology Academy because “I thought there would be more opportunity with YTA to learn more about different technologies.” Arianna used these opportunities to not only learn more about engineering and robotics but also to meet new people, make friends, and learn different work and professional skills. We asked Arianna what advice she had for other students, and she quickly responded, “Time management is key. It may not be easy, but it will help you in the long run.”

Arianna will be graduating this June and will continue her academic career studying mechanical engineering at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, located in Greensboro, NC.


Staff Spotlight: Kevin Sarran

Kevin Sarran has been a leading member of YTA for the past 9 years. He started with YTA as a sophomore from Lincoln-West High School, becoming a member of both YTA’s VEX and FIRST robotics teams. When asked why he first decided to join YTA, Kevin stated, “Most of my family works in healthcare, but I was interested in doing something technology related. I found out Lincoln-West High School had a robotics program, so I decided to join.” Kevin became a star student, always eager to take on new projects. YTA was so impressed with Kevin’s dedication and passion for STEM education that after his graduation in 2009, Kevin was offered a job as a student assistant for the program-later to be promoted to coordinator.

Kevin has served not only as an important member of the YTA team but also as a mentor for students on both the VEX and FIRST robotics teams. Kevin uses his expertise to guide students through the designing, building, and programming process of each robot and also uses his own experience to help students with learning valuable communication and work skills they can use in any situation. Kevin sees working for YTA as more than just a job. “Youth Technology Academy made a huge impact on my life. I was able to set goals, and then accomplish those goals.” Kevin is returning the favor by helping current and future YTA students so that they may be able to further their education in STEM fields and succeed on the career path of their choice. YTA wants to thank Kevin Sarran for all of his dedication and hard work and is looking forward to many years to come!

Kevin working on bot

Exciting New Energy Course

Youth Technology Academy (YTA) is launching a new, two week energy policy course this spring that will be sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The course will be taught by Andrew Thomas, who serves as an Executive-in-Residence with the Energy Policy Center at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs of Cleveland State University. This will be the third version to be taught by Mr. Thomas.

In this year’s course, students will fully immerse themselves in the many different roles that participate in energy policy from the lawyers who write it to the oil and windmill companies it affects. Each student will research their assigned role, and students will apply what they learn in class to different role play sessions and debates. Mr. Thomas explained the importance of introducing students to energy policy early on, “Our policy makers are today making decisions that will affect both the economy and environment for the next 50 years, based upon an advocacy system that protects the status quo.  Today’s youth need to understand this and how it will affect them, and they need to understand what energy systems of the future can and should look like.” There will be 15 students participating in this year’s course, and YTA is looking forward to seeing how this new approach helps students understand the importance of energy policy.

The new course will begin on April 18 at CSU’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.

FIRST Regional: Queen City

Youth Technology Academy’s Team 120 finished strong at the FIRST Regional Competition held in Queen City, OH. Team 120’s “Red Dragon” robot ranked tenth out of 56 teams, the team’s best ranking yet and made it to the competition’s quarter finals. Though the team didn’t move on to the semi-finals, it didn’t go down without a fight. For the first time this season, Team 120 debuted a new climbing mechanism that allows the robot to “scale the castle walls” at the end of each match for extra points. The team also tried out a new strategy that required driving the bot backwards, which allowed it to pick up “boulders” more quickly, and gave the team the ability to shoot up to 8 goals (doubling their previous attempts).

More than just the robot went through improvements in preparation for the regional competition. Team 120’s scouting strategy also underwent a major overhaul, allowing for a more detailed look at each competing robot and team. Instead of students following one robot through the entire competition, students were assigned one of the 6 driver stations that are used in each match. The student then followed whatever team/robot was at that station during a match. This helped dispel any confusion of which robots were up, or who was scouting which team. It also allowed more students to weigh in on each robot, which created a more comprehensive understanding of each team. This change also helped spot any concerns a particular station may have so that it could be brought to the attention of judges and technical advisors. Though these changes helped guide the whole team to success, it is the dedication and passion of each team member that makes 120 a real winning team. Throughout this competition season, students have learned valuable problem solving, work ethic, networking, and communication skills. These are skills that students will be able to take with them long after the national competition in April. YTA and FIRST have given students the opportunity to learn and apply these necessary tools, making every team member a winner.

Team 120 will attend the FIRST National Competition in St. Louis, MO April 27-30.

120 bot pic cinci cropped
Team 120’s robot, The Red Dragon.