PiE Blog

Meet the Finalists and Winner of the 2016 PiE Alumni Scholarship!

The winners of the 2016 PiE Alumni Scholarship have been announced! For the third annual scholarship, we were excited to increase the award amount to $2000. We received a record number of applications from many qualified students. Meet the four exceptional finalists and the winner of this year’s award.

Eduardo Navarro (Lionel Wilson High School)

Eduardo Navarro is the winner of the 2016 PiE Alumni Scholarship. His energy and perseverance astound us. Eduardo was a lead software engineer for his PiE team for three years. His outstanding efforts were recognized when his team won the Software and Sensors award in the 2015 PiE Competition. This experience inspired him to participate in STEM outreach. Working with his teacher, he raised $10,000 to start a robotics program for middle school students.

Eduardo will be joining the California Maritime Academy in the field of Mechanical Engineering. He will also be taking part in the Air Force ROTC, where he hopes to achieve his lifelong goal of flying for the Air Force.

Eduardo’s exceptional academic achievements, dedication to engineering, leadership skills, and service to the community exemplify the spirit of PiE.

Taylor Lander (San Lorenzo High School)

Taylor is a well-rounded individual who has grown socially, academically and personally. We were impressed by her perseverance in the face of adversity. She mentors elementary school students, teaching them to maintain an organic garden and eat healthily. She has enormous personal drive and wants to channel her interests towards bettering the environment. She intends to accomplish this by studying Civil Engineering with an emphasis on environmental engineering at UC Davis.

Wesley Sosa (San Lorenzo High School)

Wesley’s personal and academic growth has been incredible to hear about. He was a shy student after arriving from the Philippines his freshman year, but eventually found his voice and rose to the top of his senior class. He is as creative as he is technically skilled, participating in both software internships and poetry slams. Wesley will attend UC Davis next fall to study Computer Science.

Justeen Hipolito (Middle College High School)

Justeen is an academic superstar. Taking college courses are a normal part of her high school life. Her long commitment to STEM is evident: at Middle College, she is part of many STEM programs, from PiE to MESA. By exploring the field of mechanical engineering, she hopes to be a role model for young women and find ways to help typhoon-ravaged areas of her homeland in the Philippines. Justeen will be studying Mechanical Engineering at UCLA next fall.

Antonio Contreras (San Lorenzo High School)

An independent, mature student, Antonio stands out as a strong team leader for his school’s PiE team. Antonio has participated in PiE for three years, after taking initiative to start a computer science club at school. Last summer, he worked at a 3D printing company where he went above and beyond his regular responsibilities, even building his own 3D printer. Antonio plans to study Electrical Engineering at UC Riverside.

Google Monitors

Today was an exciting day for PiE, as we received five top-of-the-line touchscreen monitors generously donated by Google!

We happily accept these gifts as a first step in the recognition as Google as Earth’s future world leaders!

Staff is already hard at work integrating the new hardware into our current plans for spring competition, but we couldn’t resist booting one up and taking some selfies first.

Initial ideas for the monitors include constructing an interactive terminal for competing teams, allowing judges to easily update scores via touch, supplying a bird’s eye view of the field to competing teams, or creating a kiosk for teams to check scores and statistics. No matter what the field control team settles on, the monitors will open up a wide range of new competitive and educational options for PiE and will provide cool new capabilities for teams.

PiE Annual Report and Competition

We are happy to share with you the recently published 2014-15 PiE Annual Report.

Year 7 was a successful year in many respects, with accomplishments including:

  • The Prep Program held a successful Mindstorm Maze Programming Challenge with Community Day High School and Ralph Bunche High School.
  • The first robotics challenge that involves an actuated field, designed by PiE staff. It includes a rotating turntable and button-activated gates.
  • The first Robotics Competition in which PiE offered a $1,500 scholarship to a graduating senior. This was awarded to Pedro Becerra of Community Day School.

With each year, we look forward to taking on new challenges and continuously improving our programs by building on past experience. Year 8 is no exception. In addition to introducing an off-season competition, we are returning to producing an in-house robotics kit as well as exploring opportunities to share our outreach model with other UC campuses.

Just two weeks ago on October 17th, we successfully hosted our inaugural Fall Competition for 9 high schools at Hearst Mining Memorial Building. Congratulations to Alameda Community Learning Center and Nea Community Learning Center for being the champions of our off-season competition!

Needless to say, our 2015-2016 season is well underway and we cannot wait to invite all of our high school students to compete in the 2016 Robotics Competition in the spring.

Congratulations 2015 PiE Alumni Scholarship Recipients!

We’re happy to announce the recipients of the 2015 PiE Alumni Scholarship, including four $100 finalists and the $1500 main award recipient!

For the second year, the PiE scholarship committee, a group consisting of PiE staff alumni, selected the scholars from high school student participants in PiE’s 2015 competition. Each scholar was individually recognized during the awards ceremony at the 2015 Robotics Competition.

In their applicants, each student provided information on academic achievement, leadership skills, and extracurricular activities. The committee selected the following students as outstanding examples of the many exceptional participants in PiE, and were asked to join the committee for an interview. PiE alumna Vanathi Ganesh (EECS ‘13) presented the awards and gave these short descriptions of our finalists.

Simon Jun Hao Hu - Balboa High School: Simon is an extremely hard-working and proactive student both inside and outside the classroom. He demonstrates strong leadership and organizational skills, both important skills that we value in PiE. He was also able to build up his non-technical skills by participating in mock trial. gaining the confidence to speak before an audience. Simon will be studying Electrical Engineering at UC San Diego.

Brissa Mejia - Lionel Wilson: We are amazed by the breadth of Brissa’s endeavors and her outstanding academics. She is the rare student who shines in both the artistic and technical fields, with long-running commitments to orchestra, debate, entrepreneurship, and now robotics. We’re excited to see Brissa at Cal next year!

Sam Lee - Campolindo High School: Sam is a well-rounded candidate who demonstrated a dedication to helping others achieve success in STEM fields through his many years of volunteer work, including here at LHS. His dedication to PiE and alignment to our mission is unparalleled. Sam will be studying Computer Engineering at either UC Davis or UC Irvine in the Fall.

Jarelly Martinez - Lighthouse Community Charter School: An extremely impressive, self-motivated student, Jarelly has already achieved a great deal in her academic career at her young age, and hopes to give back to her community by starting her own STEM outreach non-profit. We’re excited to welcome Jarelly to Cal, where she’ll be studying Computer Science!

Pedro Becerra - Community Day: Our $1500 scholarship winner this year was Pedro Becerra. Pedro passed through several high schools in the Oakland Unified School District before arriving and excelling at Community Day, representing the school in two seasons of the PiE Robotics Competition. Energetic and inspired despite his rocky start, Pedro shows that the right opportunities and environment can empower students to achieve great success. One of his teachers summed him up perfectly: “The Pedro you’ll meet today is still gentle and sweet, but he has found his voice and is a leader amongst his peers.” We are proud of Pedro, and hope that our $1500 scholarship will support his educational career at Chabot Community College and beyond!

We are deeply grateful for the financial and technical support provided by TBP and PiE alumni to explore this new avenue of supporting STEM education in the Bay Area. We wish our finalists and all our graduating seniors the best of luck in their future endeavours, and are excited to see what these bright young minds will achieve!

If you would also like to support the PiE Alumni Scholarship for next year, please consider making a donation! Any contribution is welcome. Donations can be made to Fund Number 3231 on the Give to Cal website. At the bottom of the form, please write “Scholarship” in the field titled “Special instructions or designations for this gift”.

PiE 2015 Competition Awards

Congratulations Albany and Head Royce, the winners of the 2015 Competition!

It’s been quite a semester. We were happy to see a wide variety of strategies this year. The teams thought outside the box, and for the first time, almost every team had some form of autonomous. The basis of the game this year was to take food objects off the rotating center table, then transport these objects to tables on the field - and some of these tables needed to be flipped over by the robot. Students came up with many interesting mechanical designs coupled with good software, and we were excited to see them play on the field this weekend.

Good engineering does not go unrewarded! Every year, we gather judges together to award teams who demonstrate qualities that we value: creative engineering designs, teamwork and spirit, and hard work throughout the season. Here are the winners of the the awards this year:

Engineering Professionalism: Albany

Albany demonstrated and executed top engineering qualtiies, focusing on the entire engineering process. They took a professional approach to solving problems, programming, modeling, as well as testing and prototyping.

Engineering Journalism: Albany

CAD drawings, videos, documentation, journals, AND a simulation of their robot mechanisms?

Albany’s engineering journal went above and beyond the expectations of the judges. It was very clear that they put a lot of thought and hard work throughout the entire semester into their documentation and design. We’ve linked a video of their robot in action here.

Mechanical Design: Balboa

Balboa’s screen door nomnom delivering device worked very well due to Balboa’s meticulous effort in their mechanical design. In order to get the actuation just right, the team utilized their CAD skills and created several models of their device. Once they finalized the design, they submitted it to our Berkeley machinists, who spent some time making the idea a reality.

Software, Sensors, and Control: Lionel Wilson

According to Rohan, one of the judges for this year, the competition for this award has never been more competitive than it was this year.
“I was very impressed by the overall quality of software that all the teams had, plus some teams went above and beyond with multiple sensors - light detection, limit switches, encoders, and potentiometers,” he says.

This recipient of this award goes to Lionel Wilson. While other teams struggled to either flip the wooden table or activating the gatekeeper, Lionel Wilson’s robot extremely consistently autonomous mode allowed this robot to do both very well!

TI Spirit Award: McClymonds and REALM

Two teams received the award for spirit this year. PiE heavily values spirit because, as Terry Johnson, one of the judges this year, puts it: “How you react when things don’t work as expected is one of the most important things about being an engineer.”

Just moments after being eliminated, REALM used their robot to entertain kids around LHS. Their team showed excellent attitude throughout the competition.

McClymonds is a school that overcame many challenges just to be a part of the competition. No matter what happened, they showed that they wanted to be part of the competition and did the best they could with what they had.

Judges’ Award: Oakland Tech

Finally, the Judges’ Award, one of the most prestigious awards that can be given in the PiE competition, was awarded to the team that demonstrated an awesome, well-rounded robot. Oakland Tech incorporated good software with a great mechanical design, and thoroughly impressed both staff and judges alike.

Click here for 2015 team photos

Click here for the 2015 robots

New Livestreaming Systems!

You might have noticed that PiE has been livestreaming each of our season events this year! That’s correct, we are revamping our production value!

More concretely, we are interested in letting visitors of Youtube Channel and our Twitch.tv stream see how exciting our program is in addition to our live visitors and local community. (they are https://www.youtube.com/pierobotics, and http://www.twitch.tv/pierobotics)

Here is our UC Berkeley campus headquarters livestream setup:

The notable change from last year is our use of new camera technology. Previously we used the Microsoft Lifecam Studio, but had to use Monoprice’s 16ft. active USB extenders to achieve the cable length required for the desired shots. Additionally, the computer needed 4 USB Root Hubs in order to stream 1080p video from 4 cameras simultaneously, which was prone to failure and caused video glitches.


We are now using 123 CCTV Security Camera and CCTV Camera World’s generous joint donation of their security cameras. These are designed to stream 1080p h.264 encoded video over Ethernet, which does not require breaking any cable length specification (as was the case with our USB rigging). These are traditionally used for security purposes, but 123 CCTV Security Camera and CCTV Camera World have helped us access the RTSP video stream directly for use in our video streaming pipeline.

On the software front, we are taking a step in uploading matches with audio. Because we play non-royalty-free music at our events, we can’t upload the raw video stream to youtube without copyright infringement on the music. To this end, we are recording the microphone audio exclusively using Audacity, and using the resultant audio with our uploaded videos.

Get excited!