Students win international virtual robotics world championship

The School District of Philadelphia  |  Posted on

RoboGriffins co-captain Mingjin Lu, an 11th grade student at Academy at Palumbo High School, is the team’s lead programmer.

Academy at Palumbo High School robotics students won first place in the CoderZ Pro League World Championship, an international robotics competition designed to engage students with challenges and opportunities to work collaboratively in teams.

The virtual competition took place Thursday, January 28 and featured teams from 29 states and 20 countries. The RoboGriffins, the student robotics team at Academy at Palumbo High School, is coached by physics teachers Lee Burwasser and Sean Martin. The team is led by coding captain Mingjin Lu, co-captain Sharif Salim, and members Mike Vargas, Danny Zheng, Zhijun Tian, Jeffrey Cheung, Yucong Li, Emanuel Villegas, Lauren Huynh, Calvin Wong, Aaron Wu, Devin Liu, David Yang and Jiahao Wang.

CoderZ Pro League is a virtual robotics tournament that allows teams to program a simulated robot using the Python or Blockly programming language. In the qualifying rounds, teams played their code against an artificial intelligence (AI) opponent. But in the playoffs, teams played their code head to head against another team. The RoboGriffins defeated team Explosion from School 1329 in Moscow, Russia in the final round.

Palumbo junior and team co-captain Mingjin Lu was the team’s lead programmer. “CoderZ gave me a huge opportunity to discover my coding abilities in a time when we can’t meet up in person,” Lu said. “I encourage every student interested in STEM to participate in CoderZ.”

While students continue digital learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CoderZ Pro League provided a platform for students to continue learning programming, game strategy and teamwork, competing from the safety of their own homes. The team gathered via Google Meet to watch the final rounds together as they were streamed live from the CoderZ broadcast studio in Israel.

“It brings me great pride that our team all came together to make this possible,” said Sharif Salim, RoboGriffins co-captain and senior student at Palumbo. “It was a new experience using CoderZ, and though at first I didn’t have a clue how to use it, after a lot of practice and hard work we made it happen!”

The RoboGriffins are part of the Philadelphia Robotics Coalition, a nonprofit organization that has supported competitive robotics programs for Philadelphia public school students since 2016. The coalition has a vision that every Philadelphia public school student will have access to a high-quality robotics program in their school or community. The coalition’s team funds, coach stipends, workshops and events, and mentorship programs make it possible for Philadelphia public schools to create and sustain their own robotics programs. The coalition seeks to foster greater equity within robotics programs and create a pipeline for these traditionally underrepresented populations to enter the STEM workforce.

The CoderZ Pro League challenge launched in the fall, and five Philadelphia Robotics Coalition teams advanced to the playoffs. Within the Philadelphia region, the Constitution High School GenBots placed third, Central High School RoboLancers FORTRAN made it to the quarterfinals, and the Parkway Center City Middle College RoboHounds and Central High School RoboLancers COBOL made it to Round 16. The Palumbo RoboGriffins won the region to advance to (and win) the world championship rounds.