The commons at Roosevelt High School had been transformed into a battle ground.
Robots built by students in the special education program at Roosevelt waited to enter the ring.
“This is my miracle, my dream come true,” said Kendall Foster, a senior at Roosevelt.
Foster never thought she'd be able to build her own robot. She has autism, and a high school robotics club with loud noises and lots of people can be distracting because building a robot takes focus.
Students work with more than 400 pieces to design and program their own robot, which Foster found overwhelming in a traditional robotics program.
That's what gave Delaney Foster, Kendall Foster's younger sister, the idea to start a different kind of robotics program.
Delaney Foster attends King's Schools, a Christian school in Shoreline. She has been a member of the CyberKnights, King's robotics team, since her sophomore year.
She envisioned a program that would pair members of her robotics club with students in the special education program at Roosevelt. They would spend one day a week for six weeks at Roosevelt working one on one with the students.
Delaney took the idea to her teacher and Tom Ledcke, the special education teacher at Roosevelt. Ledcke said he has wanted a program like this for years.
“I had students who were on the autism spectrum, and they would go to the robotics group on the first day,” he said. “Just being in that kind of environment with the sensory issues that they have – they left immediately.”
He said this program is better: It’s a quiet space where the steps are broken down. Students aren’t as overwhelmed.
The King’s students were in charge of breaking down the steps. Student Eva Lu worked with Kendall Foster to build her robot. It wasn’t always easy.
“Sometimes she’ll find it too hard, and she’ll want to stop doing this and do something else,” Lu said. “There are days that she doesn’t feel very good; she’ll have bad seizures and she can’t see very well, so she can't put the parts together.”
With patience and teamwork, Lu helped Kendall Foster stay on track until they had assembled a robot.
“She was so excited. I still remember her face, like looking around and calling her mom, like, ‘Look, Mom, that’s my robot. It’s running,'” Lu said.
On the night of the competition, Lu and Kendall Foster made last-minute adjustments to their robots.
Six weeks of work came down to this one moment. Kendall Foster’s robot came in second place, pushed out of the ring in the very last round.
At the end of the night, students walked away with new friends and trophies – printed off a 3D printer of course.