Buchanan Robotics Team Headed to Laos

Buchanan Bird Brains Robotics Team 1671 members Elijah Hernandez, Annika Garza, and Kalvin Xiong (not pictured) will be traveling to Laos to assist in facilitating STEAM workshops. (Photo courtesy of FIRST® Robotics Team 1671 Buchanan Bird Brains)

Three local high school students will travel to Laos this November to teach elementary-aged children science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) in partnership with Fresno-based non-profit named A Hopeful Encounter.

Buchanan Bird Brains Robotics Team 1671 members Elijah Hernandez, Annika Garza, and Kalvin Xiong will help facilitate workshops for over 90 students in the Xieng Khouang province.

A Hopeful Encounter CEO Susan Xiong and other adult volunteers will accompany the Buchanan students on their trip, according to a news release from the non profit.

The organization was founded in 2014 to improve the quality of life for people in Southeast Asia by constructing houses and promoting education.

Only 45 percent of the 10,553 villages in Laos have schools up to third grade, and 20 percent have no schools at all.

In 2015, the organization raised enough funds to construct Ban Phawai Primary School in Xieng Khouang.

“The purpose was to help provide access to education to the children in rural areas of Southeast Asia that do not have access to adequate education,” Xiong said. “One of the ways we do that is building schools and providing school materials and workshops.”

Hernandez, CEO of Team 1671 and a senior at Buchanan High School, created the Bird Brains’ STEAM workshop. “It’s wrong on my part knowing I can provide access to these opportunities and not doing so,” Hernandez said, according to the news release.

The Bird Brains have facilitated 10 different workshops, teaching 237 children in Fresno and Clovis.

The STEAM Workshop consists of several elements for educating the children: an activity book, a children’s book, coding game, engineering design activity and a manual of additional resources.

The students are raising funds for the trip to Laos using GoFundMe. To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/steam-workshop-to-laos.

Michael graduated from Fresno State in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in print journalism. During his time at the university, he served as sports and managing editor for The Collegian, Fresno State’s student-run newspaper. In addition to the Clovis Roundup, Michael has written for The Fresno Bee, the Kingsburg Recorder and Selma Enterprise. He has a passion for sports and can be found on the sidelines at local games, bringing the citizens of Clovis the athletics news they deserve.