Diversity & Inclusion
Robotics / STEM

Central High robotics coach Dan Ueda takes job at Penn’s robotics lab

Philly's reigning Geek of the Year will focus on developing and supporting K-12 robotics programs.

Dan Ueda, Central High School‘s longtime robotics coach and Philadelphia’s reigning Geek of the Year, has taken a job at Penn’s GRASP robotics lab, he told Technical.ly. He’ll focus on developing and supporting K-12 robotics programs.

Ueda, 37, of West Philly, said that after 11 years teaching math and physics, it was the right time for him to make the move. He wrote in an email:

It was a perfect storm of frustrations with the School District, an eagerness to try and support people doing the work that I was doing, and attention that I had gained for my efforts over the years.

Ueda lead the RoboLancers, Central High School’s robotics team, for five years as head coach. Under his leadership, the students organized an annual Robotics Expo, headed to regional and world championships and raised money from corporate sponsors. The team sends 90 percent of its seniors to undergraduate engineering programs, according to Ueda.

Michael Johnson, a teacher with the district for the last five years, will teach math and physics at Central and coach the RoboLancers, Ueda said.

When asked about his favorite memory from his time at Central, Ueda named two:

If I had to choose one, I suppose I would go with when our robotics team was announced as winner of the Engineering Inspiration Award at the Mid-Atlantic FRC Championships. We were very much underdogs to win an award like that but the judges recognized the incredible effort that my students put in to supporting robotics and STEM education in Philadelphia through outreach events, scrimmages, workshops, and general mentoring. We had about 25 students at the event, and when they announced our name as the winner of the award, they just about lost it. There were tears, screams, and lots of hugs. When you have kids work so unbelievably hard for something finally be recognized for it, it makes you feel like all is right in the world. It was a magical experience.

Either that, or when a favorite robotics student told me, as he was packing up to leave our lab at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday, that he was heading to his night job putting up sheetrock for his uncle’s company. I realized so much in that moment.

Companies: Central High School / GRASP Laboratory / University of Pennsylvania

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