SCH robotics program celebrates success

Posted 10/12/23

More than 150 members of the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy community recently celebrated the success of the SCH robotics program.

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SCH robotics program celebrates success


More than 150 members of the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH) community – alumni, parents, students and friends – recently celebrated the success of the school’s robotics program and the many contributors who have played a critical role in shaping it over the years at the school’s Chestnut Hill campus.

Starting in a utility closet with just eight students, the co-founders and leaders of the program, Peter Randall ’69 and Rob Ervin H’08, have grown the Robotics and Engineering Department to become what it is today: a world-recognized powerhouse of a program that now boasts 15 robotics teams that include 150 students in grades 1 through 12.

Team 1218, the SCH Upper School robotics team, has qualified for 18 of 19 World Championships during that time, won Worlds in 2019, and graduated about 15-20 percent of its students into top-notch university engineering programs over the past two decades, including MIT, Caltech, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins, RPI, WPI, Virginia Tech, Drexel, Temple, Rose-Hulman and all three military academies. Graduates have gone on to jobs at Google, Tesla, Boeing and SpaceX, and they’re also making strides as innovative entrepreneurs.

Randall expanded the program to include robotics programs in all divisions, inspiring all students in all grades to find joy and inspiration in STEM. The program and its leaders were also instrumental in the founding of the school’s hallmark Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership program.

The recipient of an “All-Star Teacher of the Year” award from the Phillies in 2020, Randall was nominated for teaching students “how to approach complex problems they’ve never seen before and to solve them using perseverance, resourcefulness, resilience, teamwork, and communication.”

Rob Ervin, Peter’s left and right hand in the robotics lab, was also recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

“While Rob’s mechanical acumen is extraordinary – he has an ability to fabricate almost anything – and his contributions to Team 1218 are legendary, his real magic was getting kids excited about tackling tough problems and embracing the teamwork required to do it at the most competitive levels,” Randall said.

Two of the program’s “best and brightest” were also recognized with Alumni Achievement Awards: Chesley Roebuck ’06 and Charlie Frank ’09.

Roebuck is the founder and executive director of Emerging Leaders in Technology and Engineering, Inc. (ELiTE), a community-based youth development organization. Chesley’s numerous awards and recognitions include being named by Forbes Magazine as one of “30 Under 30 in Education” in 2016 and honored alongside President Barack Obama as the recipient of the Evelyn Kamen Rising Star Award in 2017.

In addition, Scott Rankin, who, according to Randall, was “one of the first members of the SCH family to completely ‘get it,’” was honored with the Service to Robotics Award, and Special Contribution Awards were presented to Jono Frank ’69, Lisa Gemmill, Dick Hayne, Jim Huffaker, Charles B. Landreth ’66, James Martin ’99, Gordon McLennen, Ben Pedano, Karen Pedano, Donna Schapiro and David Sheffield.

“Under the tutelage of our incredible faculty who are dedicated to hands-on, experiential learning, robotics students have learned how to solve problems not just at the start of a project but again and again over the term and through the years,” said Head of School Delvin Dinkins. “They figure out how to ask good questions and come up with solutions.”