Scrappy Teens Return to the Robot Ring After Dream Season Is Taken Away

Goleta, CA: Last June, the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy shocked students, parents, and alumni when it announced that it was retiring its highly popular and successful FIRST Robotics Team 1717. Some of the students who felt disappointed by that decision did not take it lying down. As of Saturday, they are back in the robot game with the formation of Riviera Robotics. The student driven team will take part in the 2016 national FIRST Robotics event with an eye toward continuing a local robot success tradition. The students come armed with their own intelligence and expertise, but they are seeking community support as well.

Members of the team were left feeling let down, but instead of moping, they used the creativity and drive they were planning to use at DPEA to form their own team. More than a dozen students have spent their after-­school time this fall raising money and awareness for their effort, while also gathering new team members, mentors, and tools. Riviera Robotics' new Team 5818 includes DPEA seniors bouncing back from the shocking news, but also has been expanded to include DPHS students from other grades, as well as students from San Marcos High. On Saturday, they got their marching orders from FIRST Robotics and the new team is already hard at work engineering this year’s robot contestant.

The transition from DPEA­-led team to student-­led group has not gone unnoticed by national robotics officials.

“These students are some of the most driven, focused, and dedicated young people that I have worked with in quite a while,” said California FIRST Robotics senior mentor Ty Fredrick. “They want to fill the void that was left behind by 1717's demise. I am absolutely certain that they are going to succeed at fielding a competitive team at a tournament this year.”

Team 5818 now has six weeks to design, machine, and assemble their robot in time for the Ventura Regional that begins on March 23. Riviera Robotics will be assembling and testing their robot at a barn in Goleta provided by their Lead Mentor Andrew Duerner, who is a DPEA alumni who worked on the second Team 1717 robot and mentored the team in the 2012 and 2013.

Along with Duerner and several other DPEA alums, Rivera Robotics already enjoys the support of Neal Feay Company, Santa Barbara Hackerspace, Valley Precision Products Inc., FLIR, Archmill Architecture, and many individual sponsors. The team is looking for additional sponsors and support. “The more support the community offers,” said Riviera Robotics sponsor relations leader Amy Dixon, “the better our robot will be this year.” Some might say that these students are already winners for bouncing back so well from disappointment.

More information on the team and how anyone can become a business or individual can be found at their website: contact the team, email

This year’s FIRST Robotics challenge release video can be found at:

Riviera Robotics programmers work after the FIRST Kickoff 2016.

Riviera Robotics programmers work after the FIRST Kickoff 2016.

Zachary Zerman