Si Se Puede Foundation

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The Si Se Puede Foundation provides programs to stregthen families, children and communities. The foundation has an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and programs. Si Se Puede Foundation board member Carmen Cornejo and Dhruv Iyer, president of the Si Se Puede Foundation Robotics club talk about the foundation.

JOSE CARDENAS: The "Sí Se Puede" Foundation provides programs to strengthen families, children and communities. One of the things the foundation is known for is its emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, STEM education and programs. Here to talk about the foundation is Carmen Cornejo, a board member with "Sí Se Puede" Foundation. And Dhruv Iyer, president of the foundation's Robotics Club. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte." Lots to talk about. And I want to get right to it but first, the foundation itself, this is a little bit of a new venture, focusing on robotics.

CARMEN CORNEJO: Yes, well, we've been working on STEM programs since about 10 years ago. First, the organization that was born in 1994 was focused on extracurricular activities for students. But then we see the need to bring STEM. And we saw the opportunity with the robotics team, exploring LEGO robotics and create a pipeline of students interested in science, technology, engineering and math and we have supported some teams also in the community that have gone to the national competition but this is our first full team, a community team participating in robotics at the high school level.

JOSE CARDENAS: You've been involved in this before. Tell us how you became to be involved in this activity.

DHRUV IYER: So I've been volunteering with the "Sí Se Puede" foundation, helping mentor the seventh and eighth grade students through their LEGO robotics, and after a few months into this year, about mid-August, Mr. Esparza, the CEO of the "Sí Se Puede" foundation approached me and mentioned he would like to start up a community first robotics team to compete in the robotics competition, which incorporates thousands of high school teens across the world. He asked me if I would be willing to help boot strap this team. We got about six people together and together with our mentor, Dr. Alan Cameron and our sponsors, State Farm, we were able to put together a robot and compete both in Arizona and in the international competition.

JOSE CARDENAS: We've got a picture of the robot you guys put together. We'll put it on the screen for us to look at. Tell us what we're looking at here.

DHRUV IYER: What you're seeing here is at the international competition. And this is our robot, Alberto, the good neighbor. We've had to -- so there you see the bulk of the electronics, which are inside. This is in between two very rapid, fast-paced matches. All of this is happening in a matter of a few minutes to half an hour.

JOSE CARDENAS: So let's talk about how you got to the international competition. First, you were one of five teams from Arizona that was sent there, right?

DHRUV IYER: Yes, correct.

JOSE CARDENAS: And the competition was in St. Louis. People from all over the world?

DHRUV IYER: Yes, so not only were our five teams from Arizona but there were teams from every state, we had teams from Israel and Turkey and China, people from Australia, as well. We got a really good chance to meet with people from all over the world to learn about all their different cultures.

JOSE CARDENAS: We've got a picture of you guys as you're about to enter the competition. You look a little nervous!

DHRUV IYER: Yeah, this was right before one of our matches and so there was a joke in the team that the two people to blame if the robots didn't work are the programmer and the president. It was a very nerve-wracking but fun experience, as well.

JOSE CARDENAS: You told me when we were talking off-camera, you learned a lot. Give us some insight into that.

DHRUV IYER: We learned a lot about technical skills, how to design a robot, program and build something from scratch with our hands, and then we also learned a lot of skills that will work beyond robotics, teamwork, how to be a leader, and so we learned both skills, both technical and life skills, as well.

JOSE CARDENAS: So Carmen, this is a great accomplishment. It's building, though, on robotics emphasis that we've already had in Arizona for a while. We have a picture that we are going to show that includes Dr. Cameron and Dhruv's team here. There's Dr. Cameron of spare parts fame, the movie came out earlier this year.

CARMEN CORNEJO: We are very lucky to have Dr. Cameron involved in the team because he has a lot of expertise coming with the robotics program that we also shorter and collaborated with them and there's a big culture of promoting robotics and also -- [ Indiscernible ] Have been great promoters of these robotics. But as he said, it's just an encompassing activity that not only teaches the technical abilities but also life skills.

JOSE CARDENAS: And talk a little bit about why this is important for "Sí Se Puede," this focus on robotics. What does it do for the students that they couldn't get from some other kinds of programs?

CARMEN CORNEJO: It's a technical and hands-on experience but also, it's the inspiration. And also, we're making them clear that they need to pair it with academic skills and academic tools. So the foundation has been really pushing calculus and chemistry and physics, extracurricular classes, and summertime and year round, and we also have Internet competitions so the students not only work on the technical skills but also in the academics area so they can go really with a good set of tools into stem fields for university programs.

JOSE CARDENAS: So we're almost out of time. This costs money. How can people support this?

CARMEN CORNEJO: Just contact us, Alberto Esparza, I'm going to give you a phone number, it's (480)310-2018. Also locate us at the website, The students love us a lot.

JOSE CARDENAS: Congratulations on your victory and thank you for joining us here. Always good to see you. And that is our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and Eight, thank you for watching. I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

VIDEO: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

Carmen Cornejo:Si Se Puede Foundation Board Member;Dhruv Iyer:Si Se Puede Foundation Robotics Club President

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