Once such past grant recipient has benefited greatly from the assistance of the D-backs. Eleven years ago, the Falcon Robotics Team at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix entered a robotics competition to face colleges from across the country, and the group of high schoolers beat out some of the country's best engineering students to win first place. Today, the team continues to develop young students, and through the D-backs' STEM initiative, it has received funds to help secure supplies and equipment to help the program continue.
"The No. 1 thing that the program emphasizes is that you can't let society label what your performance is going to be," said teacher and robotics coach Faridodin Lajvardi. "The thing we really stress is, are any other groups' brains better than ours, genetically? No. Are they able to do things we can't do? No. Then kids will say 'But we have all these things against us,' and I say, 'That may be true, but that only means you have more things in your way. It doesn't mean you can't do it.'"
Carl Hayden High is located in an economically challenged neighborhood, forcing the school's robotics program to get its financial support from places outside of its zip code and from corporate donors. The school's population is largely Latino, and Lajvardi is able to relate to the kids he teaches because, like a lot of his students, he is an immigrant. After coming to America from Iran, Lajvardi knows what it's like to feel like an outsider, and he stresses that many of the children know the feeling all too well. "Being able to think and ask questions, and learning how to solve problems and be creative, are more important than the content," said Lajvardi.
"Being able to problem-solve is important, because no matter what you're doing, the information is going to change in two to three years anyway. I try to stress to them that, in their lifetime, they're probably going to have two to three different careers because of the way that society and technology changes so fast now. I am one of the few people they're going to know who's had the same career their entire life. The only way you're going to make it is if you know how to identify a problem, how you can solve a problem, and evaluate whether or not you can solve that problem."
Carl Hayden High's program has helped many children throughout the years, including notable people like Dulce Matuz, one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2012, and Angelica Hernandez, Valedictorian of the Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University in 2011. In addition to attending school, each student involved spends three hours each day after class designing and building robots for robotics competitions. The group competes in three competitions in the spring and one -- an underwater competition -- in the summer.
"I think the ability to think is the most important thing we want them to take away from the program, not the information about robotics or any content that I might teach," said Lajvardi. "It's the ability to think, because if they can think, then they can then do any subject they encounter and handle any career that they decide to go into."