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Lowell High team’s robot is shooting for a win

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Lowell High School’s robotics team will pit its basketball-playing machine against creations from other schools at the FIRST Robotics competition. - MIKE KOOZMIN/SPECIAL TO THE SF EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/Special to The SF Examiner
  • Lowell High School’s robotics team will pit its basketball-playing machine against creations from other schools at the FIRST Robotics competition.

Students at Lowell High School, San Francisco’s elite public magnet, are known for spending long hours on their studies. But members of the robotics team have recently taken that dedication a step further.

“They work until 10, they come home and start homework at 11-ish,” marveled Christina Lee, whose son, Justin, is on the team. “They’re back at school at 7:30. You see how much passion it takes.”

The team, which began with a small group of engineering-minded teens and now numbers 50 students, was building a wheeled robot that will play basketball against robots from competing schools at a regional FIRST Robotics competition in March. A victory there would earn the team a slot at April’s world championship.

Team President Ofri Harlev said Lowell’s robot might just have a chance — something unthinkable when they started.

“We have two power drills, a jigsaw and a few hacksaws,” the sophomore said, explaining many of Lowell’s rivals have access to million-dollar machine shops and the expertise of professional engineers.

This will be Lowell’s first year entering the FIRST Robotics competition; it is the San Francisco Unified School District’s only team. Although Lowell has received grants from Google, J.C. Penney and its alumni association, the school lacks the resources of its competitors.

Although students lead the team, they hope the district will get behind the concept and encourage teams to form at other schools.

With the robot bound today for the UC Davis-based competition, the team brought it outside Monday for one more round of tests. Using a wireless joystick, one student scooted it toward a basketball, which the device’s whirring pulleys scooped up.

A moment later, the ball shot 100 feet across the schoolyard.

Harlev, crouching next to the robot, beamed with pride.

“Let’s go, team!” he shouted.

acrawford@sfexaminer.com