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Palo Verde High Magnet @ the E3 Expo

Saturday, October 24, a bus filled with members of Palo Verde's Optimal Robotics team and their coach, Engineering teacher Ann Marie Condes, trekked up to Scottsdale for the E3 Expo put on by SupportOurSchools. The event, which stands for Education Excellence Expo, is a forum for public schools to put their achieving programs on display in effort to raise awareness for public school funding. With proposals on the table to cut funding for programs such as the robotics team at Palo Verde, events such as E3 are important to show the public and the legislators what would be lost if the funding was reduced.

"We're here today to showcase what we do in public schools," Condes said. "It's really important for students to have [these] opportunities. To actually go out and showcase what they do, explain to other people, and get other people excited in the world of STEM, engineering, and robotics."

Condes and the students had an arsenal of robots on display, which showcased the multiple facets of their program. They had two VEX robots, an FRC robot, two FLL robots, a 3D printer and other interactive features. The FLL (First Lego League) robots were a particular hit with the younger crowd.

"My daughter is interested in getting in robotics, so we [got] their opinions and they offered to let us try out the robots," explained Michael Holbrook, a father of a student from Washington Elementary School District in the Phoenix area. "They were using them on their smart phones. My daughter is six; she doesn't have a lot of experience with smart phones or robotics, so it was a good first interaction."

The Palo Verde students were engaged with the large crowds they drew, often handing over the controls or pausing to explain exactly how the machines operated. At one point, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan stopped by the exhibit and was impressed to watch the robots work.

"I think my favorite is watching the kids interact with other people and showing off what they do," Condes reflected. "Each one of them has put a lot of work, a lot of energy and a lot of thought and design into [their projects]."