Branham COVID Hackathon 2020

The 2020 Branham COVID Hackathon took place on October 24th in a new, online format. Thank you to all who attended for you willingness to work with us in this challenging time.

We had participants from every school in the CUHSD and all over the world, with students joining us from Canada and India!

Branham came out on top, with students Oleksandr Gorpynich and Lino Le Van coming in first for their innovative combination of Peardeck and Kahoot to help teachers engage students.

Branham alums and several current Branham students taught workshops for participants of all skill levels. We were again incredibly impressed by the projects, especially from our many new coders.

Hackathon Schedule

Check-in begins at 8:45. Make sure you arrive on time!

The primary point of communication will be Zoom: (Meeting ID: 985 4267 0347, Passcode: hack). This will be the link throughout the hackathon. YOU NEED A ZOOM ACCOUNT TO LOGIN TO THE MEETING. 

8:45 am – 9:15 am

9:15 am – 9:30 am

9:30 am – 10:30 am

10:30 am – 12:00pm

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

1:00 pm – 6:30 pm

6:30 pm

6:30 pm – 7:00 pm

7:00 pm – 7:20 pm

7:20 pm – 7:45 pm

7:45 pm – 8:00 pm

Check-in and introductions

Opening ceremony and theme announcement


Begin working with your team!

Lunch, working on projects

Team work, optional workshops

Time to submit projects for judging!

Dinner, judging


Top three projects present

Awards and prizes, closing ceremonies

2020 Branham Winter Hackathon

The 2020 Branham Winter Hackathon took place on February 2nd. Thank you to all who participated! We saw some wonderful creations, especially given the fact that many participants had never coded before.

We had middle and high schoolers participate from Branham and Dartmouth, most of whom had little or no coding experience. Yet, in just eight hours, all had functioning websites or apps, addressing very real problems from study skills to student mental health, in line with the hackathon’s theme of education.

After participating in educational sessions taught by Branham students Will and James Gardner, the participants grouped into teams of four to five and began hacking.

Students built a program to analyze emails for hurtful content, a quiz game for elementary schoolers, and a website that locates tutors among other projects, which they presented to a panel of expert judges.

We look forward to holding this event again in the future, so check back periodically for future dates!

“BattleBots” Birthday Party!

Last Saturday, the Bionic Bruins hosted a local eight year old’s robotics themed birthday party. Our team created an open ended, engineering focused activity that encouraged kids to build, learn, and play.

Playing with the VEX robots

We started off by dividing the kids into three equal groups, then gave each of them a pre-built, basic wheelbase. After driving around and testing out the robot, the kids quickly realized they could modify their robots to look cooler- and be more effective in battle. Using the provided assortment of VEX parts, the teams took all their robots in different directions.

A view of the party

Some teams focused on adding armor to their robots. Other groups picked a more offensive strategy. They built rams and outcroppings onto their robots, with the help of the Bionic Bruins team.

Finally, after they finished building, it was time to battle! The kids got really excited about getting an opportunity to face each other, battle royale style, in the arena our team set up.

Overall, this event went great and we’re excited about hosting more parties in the future. Schedule a robot party here!

Fundraising 101: Bake Sales!

This summer, we’ve started a new push to fundraise for competition season and our outreach activities. At the forefront of this effort: the humble bake sale. The formula is pretty simple; just bake appealing treats, set up in front of a local shop, and sell.

Our table at the bake sale

The first step, of course, was the baking. The trick here is to get a few people to bake and split up the labor. But, we had to be careful not to bake too much- otherwise, there’s waste.

We realized the importance of selling a great product, so, at our bake sales, we’ve gone beyond cookies and cupcakes, expanding to lemon cake, cupcakes in a cup, and more. This brings in more customers who might pass up on a chocolate chip cookie; lemon cake was one of our bestselling items.

Choosing the right venue was key to our success. By picking a local grocery store, we came into contact with more customers who knew our school and what we do in the community. When customers understand what an organization stands for and have a personal connection with it, they tend to be more generous.

But, the most important part was selling.

Some tasty, Branham Robotics treats

Selling isn’t just standing behind a table. It’s about looking friendly, talking to customers, and telling them about how much robotics impacts. We didn’t expect customers to donate; we convinced them. But, the measure that impacted our success most wasn’t just being outgoing; it was a calculated decision to solicit donations instead of setting prices. When asked for a donation in exchange for a baked good instead of a fix price, we let the customer add on extra, ultimately making every sale more profitable.

In the end, success came mostly from have great product, great people, and great strategy. Look for the Bionic Bruins Bake Sale at a store near you!

VEX DrawBot @ Girl Scouts

By: Alexander Goldberg

As with every outreach event, the Bionic Bruins worked hard to bring an amazing Robotics exploration activity to Girl Scout troop 60113.

We used one of our classic activities for elementary and middle schoolers: building a DrawBot. The activity gave the scouts a chance to get creative by challenging them to build an attachment to an existing robot than can successfully hold a pen or marker. The best part? Kids need no prior knowledge of robots to have fun!

Because building a full wheelbase and robot in a short time is too challenging for young kids (and even seasoned builders) to handle, we used pre-built robots from earlier in the season. The requirements for these robots are pretty light- just a wheel base and remote-control capability, which every VEX competition robot has anyway.

But, even though most of the robot is already built, it isn’t a breeze to construct a solid pen holder. Students had plenty of resources to construct whatever they imagined.

Because we designed this activity to get kids thinking, they weren’t guided too heavily throughout the design or build process. We divided the scouts into small groups, gave them paper and pencils, and watched the fun begin!

Every group had a different approach, but with minimal guidance from our outreach team, the event was an amazing success.

The kids blew us away with all their unique designs, so we’ll definitely be doing this activity again– and not just because we got cookies!

STEAM Nights

Throughout September and October, the Bionic Bruins visited elementary schools in the area in order man STEAM Nights put on by the Union elementary school district. This allowed us to expose students to the world of robotics and spark an interest in engineering at an early age.


Here at the Bionic Bruins, we know the importance of giving kids a chance to interact with robots. With the growing importance of tech jobs, students need to be comfortable with technology and curious about new concepts.


Even though most of the students had never touched a robot before, they were quick to learn. Even those who were a little unsure at first rose quickly to the occasion, with smiles spreading across their faces as they navigated robots around the room.

Other students built their own robots with the help of Bionic Bruins members– and more than one parent asked, “When can my child do this again?”

Training Day

On Friday, September 7th, we held out first training day for new members! During the meeting, freshmen went to different stations to learn the basics of working with Vex.


Incoming members learned how to run a simple program through a VEX cortex. President William Gardner, above, taught best wiring practices


Other new members brushed up on their documentation skills with an engineering notebook focused activity. They practiced isometric drawing, then learned about the engineering design process, while studying how to properly write a notebook entry.


Of course, no training day is complete without building, and there was plenty of that. Co-President Eliana Bower taught new members how to use a few common tools. The freshmen attempted to construct a simple frame in order to learn about different types of screws and nuts.