Napa Valley Unified School District Student Teams Win Big at UC Davis Annual Robotics Competition

American Canyon Middle School and High School Students Take 20 of 46 Awards

Pat Haines, Director, Marketing
Published on May 25, 2018

Napa, Calif., May, 25 2018 — On Saturday, May 19th, 80 Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) students turned out to compete in the UC Davis annual RoboPlay Challenge and RoboPlay Video Competition. American Canyon Middle School (ACMS) and American Canyon High School (ACHS) have been attending the the RoboPlay Challenge for six years. This was the first year that Redwood Middle School and Valley Oak High School participated and it was also the first year that the NVUSD fielded a team of 5th graders from Donaldson Way and Canyon Oaks elementary schools. The fifth grade team was mentored by the “Girls Can Too” club at ACHS who won the statewide competition in 2017. The new schools were able to participate thanks to NapaLearns expanding the C-STEM program into two more schools this year.

American Canyon Middle School wins 2nd place award
American Canyon Middle School wins 2nd place award

American Canyon Middle School and American Canyon High School Take Home RoboPlay Challenge Top Awards

American Canyon pioneered the UC Davis C-STEM curriculum in the 2013-2014 school year, which integrates coding and robotics into its Algebra and Geometry classes. The RoboPlay Challenge is the culmination of the C-STEM program wherein teams of students apply their knowledge to program robots to accomplish certain tasks. In addition to the RoboPlay Challenge, student teams have the opportunity to create screenplays and videos starring their robots.

There were 19 American Canyon middle and high school teams at the competition and they earned a combined total of 20 awards out of the 46 distributed. The all-girl ACHS team won the Statewide RoboPlay 2nd Place Award and the all-boy ACHS team took the Statewide RoboPlay 3rd Place Award in their respective divisions. The ACMS team captured the Regional RoboPlay 2nd Place award. For a complete list of all of the American Canyon awards see the attached list.

“Despite the unprecedented difficulty of the challenges, our students did an amazing job,” said Dr. Barbara Nemko, Napa County superintendent of schools. “What impressed us the most is how hard the students worked and how they didn’t give up when things didn’t go their way. They all succeeded with their amazing hard work and collaboration.”

American Canyon High School all-girl team takes 2nd place
American Canyon High School all-girl team takes 2nd place

2018 Challenge Marks First Robotics Competition for an NVUSD Elementary School

This was the first year that an NVUSD elementary school competed in the Challenge. The team was coached and mentored by four ACHS girls as part of their club, “Girls Can Too.” The club was started by junior students, Katrina Cole and Malaysia Hilliard, to address the lack of girls in robotics.  

“We think it is important for boys and girls in elementary school to be exposed to robotics,” said Katrina Cole, club president. “This exposure eliminates the perception that coding and robotics is a ‘man’s job.’ By starting younger, these students are more likely not to be locked into stereotyped roles. Plus, imagine the potential if they start younger!”

As a a result of their leadership in helping the fifth grade team, four of the girls in the “Girls Can Too” Club received the Statewide Leadership Award: Katrina Cole, Alexandra Castro, Malaysia Hilliard, and Vanessa Wright.  

NapaLearns Invests In STEM Education Programs

To date, NapaLearns has invested more than $155,000 in the expansion of the C-STEM program into more schools in Napa County and has plans to continue sponsoring the program over the next two years. In addition, the organization is hosting the first Girls In Robotics Leadership (GIRL) Camp. The C-STEM GIRL Camps are focused on motivating girls in middle school entering 7th or 8th grade to learn computing and STEM concepts through the UC Davis robotics-based curriculum. Additionally, the high school girls from the “Girls Can Too” club at ACHS will participate as role models and coaches at the camp.

“We have had an overwhelming response to the GIRL camp and it is fully subscribed,” stated Peg Maddocks, executive director of NapaLearns. “It is exciting to see girls gaining interest in science, technology, and coding. We hope this camp experience will enable them to serve as leaders and inspire other young girls, too.”

About NapaLearns

NapaLearns is a nonprofit with a bold mission – to equip every student in Napa County with the skills they need to thrive in college, careers, and their community. NapaLearns has invested millions of dollars in innovative public education programs that improve graduation rates, boost academic achievement, and ensure that students have the skills to compete in the workforce of tomorrow. Learn more at

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Media Contact

Peg Maddocks, Ph.D. | Executive Director, NapaLearns | | 408-802-6127