Above, the Bassett Bots (in gray) pose with one of the international teams competing in the VEX Robotics World Championships in Louisville, Ky.

The Bassett Bots and their supporters celebrate their 17th place showing in their first-ever VEX World Championship try.

By Carl Christoff

Bassett Street Elementary School

The Bassett Bots, the fledgling robotics team from Bassett Street Elementary School, reached the finals of the VEX IQ Robotics World Championship last month, a terrific showing for a first-time team competing against more than 6,000 teams from around the world.

With the event streamed live by Bassett’s own media crew on the school’s Facebook page, students at the Van Nuys campus watched as their schoolmates placed fourth in their division and, eventually, 17th in the world rankings.

”We sought out the other teams and made a great alliance with everybody that participated,” said Imelda Madrid, the third-grade teacher who coached the team. “What was very exciting was that they were looking for us, too, and they were excited to take pictures with us. And they were excited to compete with us. And it was so exciting to know that you were back at home watching.”

Fifth-grader Devon Duplesse was captain of the team that included classmates Tatiana Aguilar, Ricardo Gomez, Hailey Navarro, Jirachoti “Motor” Oonariya and Jared Trinidad. In addition to Madrid, they were supported by resource teacher Vincent Precht and third-grade teacher Emilio Sanchez.

Bassett Elementary student Jared Trinidad gets a sneak peek of the cockpit during his trip to Kentucky.

The team also had a great deal of support from volunteers, including parents Luis Moreno, Juan Aguilar and Brandon Duplesse, who traveled with the students to the competition in Louisville, Ky. Elias Madrid and Lu Bravo, relatives of Madrid, also made the trip, along with Dr. Margaret Kim, the instructional director of Local District Northwest.

The team’s performance earned them praise, especially since neither Madrid nor her tam had any prior experience in robotics.

“There are 6,600 VEX teams, and Bassett was 17th among all of them, said Joel Domine, who is part of the faculty at the neighboring Mulholland Middle School Robotics Magnet. “Think about that. Pretty impressive.”

Bassett’s participation in the world competition was the result of a lot of hard work by the team and teacher. It was also an end result to a robotics program that has placed a great deal of emphasis on project- and problem-based learning, process-driven inquiry, critical-thinking skills and a strong STEAM curriculum that spanned across the school’s curriculum and grade levels.

Prior to flying to Kentucky, the team participated in a school-wide send off, that included a visit from Superintendent Michelle King as well as being featured on television news.

One of the leading STEAM schools in L.A. Unified, Bassett plans to expand its programs in the coming school year.