Freshman Orientation With a Twist, Robotics Style!

The orientation event crew driving a robot across campus

This year we decided to surprise the incoming freshman with a visit from our one and only B Team competition bot as they got a taste of the diverse nature of the Branham campus! We wanted to let them take a dip into Robotics and show off our club for the cool stuff we make. Especially before people get discouraged by the nerdy stigma and the idea that you have to be outstandingly smart’ to join Robotics. This was a cool way for us to show off the product of Robotics club and let more people get an idea of what we do before creating their own opinions as the school year starts. 

Freshmen grabbing candy from the robot as it drives up to greet them

The bot we ended up using as the face of our club at freshman orientation was the competition bot B Team built over the summer! Equipped with a flywheel and speedy intake system, it sure got eyes turning. But, this was all for show, we wouldn’t want any freshman casualties after all. Instead, we had a metal candy basket that we filled to the brim with an assortment of candies! We also had a pole attached to our bot for posters, but it didn’t work out that well and we ended up removing the whole configuration to let our bot run smoother. The assorted c-channel-made pole was definitely not enough to support an entire 24-inch poster. 

The B Team bot used at orientation with a basket filled with candy

Although it may have been awesome to cruise around campus, showing off what you can make in Robotics club and encouraging people to join, it was not a smooth sailing ride. From time constraints to motors breaking and our candy basket falling apart, it certainly wasn’t easy to take a competition bot and turn it into a cruising friendly face for our incoming freshman (and possible future members!). We had initially planned a whole other bot to use at orientation that students could interact with, but we were extremely short on time. Our cortex breaking at the last minute and causing an entire wipeout of our saved code didn’t help with the time constraints either. We had a team member frantically writing last-minute code just to have our bot drive around campus (no flywheel action or intake system included, unfortunately). Even worse, we had two motors break during the two days leading to the grand orientation event. With no real screwdrivers in our possession, it was a very tedious task and made our success an even closer call than precedent. Our intake system motors had to be sacrificed for the cause of a working drivetrain. We pursued though! Only one mid-way break was needed for us to fix our basket (which had been slowly losing screws) and refill our candy and we were smooth sailing (finally)! 

Robotics member fixing a loose screw from the bot in the parking lot

Overall, we would call it a success! Throughout the day we saw tons of people marvel at our bot and talk about how cool our metal accomplice was. Spinning our bot in little circles and showing a less intensive version of Robotics, where we turn a mass of metal into a beacon for new beginnings was really fun for us all! Everyone loved the candy and was fascinated by a little robot driving over to them with a personal candy delivery. It was a fantastic sight to see and a rewarding experience after a long summer of bot-building!

Senior Sail Away 2021-2022

Tears were shed at this year’s Robotics end-of-year party. We had sentimental senior awards, messy water balloon fights, and intense volleyball games! It was a great way to have one final goodbye before sending our seniors off to wherever takes them next, whether they be collegebound or other. We loved being able to celebrate our seniors and honor how much they have done for our club during their time here!

Courtesy of Alli Wang

All enjoyed games such as the childhood favorite, tag, and monkey-bar fun. You can see the irony there! Overall, it was a great way to have fun as a club and discover new talents, who knew nerds were so good at volleyball?

Not only was it a great time for members, but a great team-building and morale-lifting event where we were able to connect as a club outside of just our time working on bots. It’s always great to know our members outside of their professional reign and work with others outside of our own teams. After a season of hard work and constant bot adjustments, the club enjoyed the day of celebration and relaxation.

Courtesy of Alli Wang

At the end of our picnic, we had an awards ceremony for senior awards (seniors only) and funny awards (club-wide):

Vinidu Geevaratne, “Best Builder”
Tevin Hendess, “Best Driver”
Kevin Toren, “Most Screws Stripped”
Jin Cho, “Most Likely to Break a Gear”
Cindy Kim, “Most Likely to Sleep at Robotics”
Matt Fellenz, “Most Likely to Hoard Parts”

All pictures courtesy of Alli Wang.

STEAM Fair @ Guadalupe & Oster

We had a wonderful time today at the Union School District STEAM Fair! We had simultaneous showcases at Guadalupe & Oster Elementary school.

At Guadalupe, we were amazed by the young students’ abilities to drive our robots, play with Snapcircuits, and draw with Spirographs.

At Oster, we absolutely enjoyed teaching younger students to drive our various robots, including JV’s soccer robot, A Team’s competition robot, and Drawbots. In addition, we brought some fun toys for the children to play with, such as Tinker toys and a hydraulic arm.

At both sites, elementary schoolers learned to drive our competition robots and Drawbots. Parents were left curious of how to get their children to join robotics programs and delighted by our multiple activities.

Guadalupe Elementary School, Photo credit/Alli Wang
Oster Elementary School, Photo Credit/Barbara Schremp

Guadalupe Elementary School, James Gardner and Tevin Hendess
Oster Elementary School, Courtesy of Sara Dediu

Next stop: Bagby Elementary School on May 6

CUHSD Hackathon 2022

Our 3rd annual hackathon was a major success full of coding and quackery!

We had 90 participants and 27 teams with attendees from every school in the district. The winning team, Branham’s Matt Fellenz and Kevin Toren, created an app to turn handwriting into Google documents along with scraping from Google Drive. Six other Branham students were in the top 5 teams: Sherry, Eric, Cooper, Evelyn, Nathan, Tevin, Justin, Brad.

The event occurred on Sunday march 20th from 9am – 9pm. Bionic Bruin alumnus and current Branham students taught coding workshops to participants. Thanks to Figma and PTSA we were able to provide both lunch and dinner to all attendees and volunteers. We also gave rubber ducks to all participants so they could rubber ducky debug. We were delighted by the creativity and ingenuity of the entries.

Thank you to all those who participated or helped to make our event happen in any capacity. We hope to see you next year!

Courtesy of Bear Witness

VEX @ Ceres High School!

We had a blast at Ceres High School! Our B team won first place during the qualification round , debuting their new hydraulic-powered 4 bar arm. A and B team allied with one another, finishing off at 8th place during the quarterfinals. A, B, and X team showed wonderful teamwork, talent, and had amazing robots. We are so proud of our Varsity members.

VEX Bellarmine

We had a wonderful time at the Bellarmine in November! Our B team won the Judge’s award and our A team marvelled in 3 out of 6 rounds.

We can’t wait to compete again on February 12 at Ceres High School.

Photo credit: Vinidu Geevaratne

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!