Diary of a Quarantined Student: Casandra

As COVID-19 continues to spread, high schools and colleges around the world are closing, and students are staying home. Quarantining can feel isolating, but stories like these have the power to change that.    

Today’s blog is from Casandra Avila, a high school junior in California. 

I have been quarantined for many weeks now and I can say that even as a homeschooler, this is a really weird experience. Before the pandemic, I was driving from class to class and was in the middle of “build season” as a FIRST Robotics Competition student. This was my first year as my robotics team captain, and I couldn’t help but think, “This’ll be my year!” Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and all the plans I was looking forward to were canceled. However, I am a future engineer, and engineers think outside the box. I’m choosing to stick to that mindset so I can say wholeheartedly that this is — and still will be — my year. It may sound odd and strangely optimistic, but I truly believe we can deal with this situation in an optimistic way! I could look at the many negatives and the fear that I have about this serious virus, but so far worry has got me nowhere. Engineers constantly look for solutions to problems. This problem-solving mentality is what took the first man to space and caused the first light bulb to be created. Problems inspire innovative thinking. 

My experience in FIRST has prepared me for moments like these. I have had to think innovatively to solve some challenging robot problems, from building a robot with limited resources to fixing the robot minutes before our match. I learned that giving up was never an option, even when the situation seemed difficult. Those experiences taught me how to work smarter.

I wanted to share the valuable lessons I gained from those experiences and pass them along to others. I saw a need at my local Boys and Girls Club, so I reached out to the club and my robotics team. We virtually met with the directors and staff of the Club to provide them with three STEM classes. They were very grateful for the support because it allowed them to maintain a connection with their students and kept them involved in STEM activities (Girls in STEM, Java, and a CADing class). When the students return to the Club, I will help lead a STEM fair,  welcoming students back and allowing them to present their different projects. The goal of this fair is to give the students a moment to share their skills, and share the FIRST message with the entire Club through live FRC and FTC robot demos. I am also meeting with several FRC teams to implement these STEM programs in their local Boys and Girls Club. I planned several Zoom calls to go over the specifics of the programs and met with their local Boys and Girls Clubs to coordinate the implementation.  

During the “build season,” I realized that not many students were interested in the electrical aspects of robotics. As the electrical captain for my team, I knew I needed to help share my passion with more students. I am currently working with a UCBerkeley student and Boeing engineer to create an electrical curriculum to help inspire students to consider electrical engineering. The curriculum will reach all aspects of electrical, from safety training to Ohm’s Law lessons. We are creating projects so that students can experience the lesson in a hands-on way. 

This experience allows me to think innovatively in the midst of a struggle. I realize how many more ways there are in the world to make a difference and support my community. Although this year has had many struggles and battles, I can still say that this will be my year because it is full of opportunities to help others and grow as a leader. I have learned many things in the last few weeks and I have seen such a beautiful side of our world, full of people supporting each other. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to give back to the world in a way I am passionate about.

Interested in writing your own Diary of a Quarantined Student blog? Send an email to jjohnson@tallo.com. And don’t miss our past blog posts from other students here!

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