Lead Story West Edition

South L.A. robotics team heads to China

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Three students from a local youth robotics team will be going to China to compete in the China Open of the World Educational Robotics contest.

“This is sure to be a life-changing experience for them,” said Jennifer Lashley, founder of South LA Robotics.

The three students were recent champions of the U.S. Open of the World Educational Robotics Contest, taking first and second place in the high school division. The top winners were Donald Beatty, who won first place, and Edgar Elias and Erick Arias, who won second place in a combined team.

The team will be in China Oct. 24-29 where they will be joining teams from the United Kingdom, the Philippines, South Korea and China. The trip was made possible by sponsorship from the World Educational Robotics Organization as well as a Go Fund Me campaign that had much support from local community members.  

The boys are part of a community club named South LA Robotics that brings technology programs such as computer programming, robotics and code to marginalized communities of color. The club began as a summer camp last summer and within three months had more than 200 students enrolled from Watts, Inglewood, South L.A. and Gardena.

Lashley is the founder of the club. Through her work as a public school teacher, she saw the need for affordable, local, tech-focused programs in South L.A. Therefore, she took it upon herself to create this club for students interested in technology.

“There’s so many careers that they’ve never heard of,” Lashley said. “South L.A. has less exposure to these types of jobs. … I want them and their parents to learn that STEM {Science, technology, engineering and math are] part of everyday life.”

South LA Robotics is more than just a one-time class. The program is designed to guide students to develop real world skills and prepare them to enter tech-related fields. Its mission is to provide long-term benefits for underserved communities in South L.A. so they could break the cycle of poverty.

Lashley added that she hopes to change the trajectory of kids lives through this tech club.