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Community mentors volunteer to grow the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy

By Malika Agrawal

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(Erendiz Tarakci / Photo).

By Malika Agrawal, Erendiz Tarakci, Shauny Grant, Alanna Kjoller, Caroline Whelan | DPEA Press Relations Team

November 18, 2012

Student Andy Granatelli uses an advanced mill in the ECEE machine shop (Erendiz Tarakci / Photo).

This year the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy has over fifty mentors who volunteer anywhere from four to twenty hours a week. These mentors impart their business management skills or engineering expertise to a group of 32 receptive seniors that comprise the 2013 Team 1717 FIRST Robotics team. They come from countless local businesses and from retirement to share their skills and experience.

The opening of the six-million dollar Elings Center for Engineering Education at the beginning of the year enabled the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy to introduce more students to the hands-on aspects of engineering, and called upon the community to help students relate this experience to reality. As has been the case since the academy was founded a few years ago, the community responded in a big way. Among them are veteran mechanical and electrical engineers, physicists, UCSB professors, retired machinists, and Engineering Academy Alumni. In addition to the engineering mentors, the 20 business teams (web content, I.T., travel, press relations, presentations, historian, graphics, grant writing, apparel, art and awards to name a few) each have one or more mentor. Many are parents of students currently or previously enrolled in the Academy. However, several have no obvious ties other than a desire to be part of an exceptional educational phenomenon.

Nico Ruvalcaba, Chase Buchanan, Scott Cook, and Anthony Turk were all previously a part of Team 1717 and after some college experience have returned to the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy to help out with the program. Machinist mentor, Nico Ruvalcaba, currently works at LCOGT, and was previously in the academy graduating from the program in 2008. He has returned to the Academy and continues to allocate his time to high school students. “I got a lot out of this program, and it did a lot for me.” says Ruvalcaba. “It helped me to prepare for industry and school. I want to help more students to get to the place I was.”

Turk, a 2009 academy graduate, is a Solidworks mentor. He is currently completing his senior year at UCSB in Mechanical Engineering and felt driven to help the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. Anthony said; “I’m excited to be helping out this year,” because he believes it will “be a great opportunity to give back to the program that helped shape my future.” He is eager to share the information that he has gained from college and working as an intern at Raytheon.

Students measure their parts on the lathe in the ECEE Machine Shop (Erendiz Tarakci / Photo).

“It’s kind of nice coming back as a mentor after a few years of college experience and applying everything that I’ve learned so far.” said Turk. “I think I learn more now as a mentor than back when I was a student just because I’ve developed a better understanding of concepts and it’s a cooler experience to see the other end of the lense in comparison to actually going through it as a kid and then coming back as a mentor.”

The seniors that make up the robotics team are divided into respective technical teams; each senior has different specializations. The programming team works diligently in improving their computer coding skills while the electrical and pneumatics team has advanced training in electrical engineering. The bulk of the students on the robotics team either machine parts in the machine shop or design parts on a software called Solidworks. Companies and individual adults from around the county have taken it upon themselves to relate classroom lessons to future careers.

Senior Serina Zepeda is on the transmissions team and is currently learning advanced SolidWorks Computer Aided Design (CAD) primarily from mentor Justin Schwab, representing Allergan. She is enthusiastic and eager to learn with Justin and other mentors that volunteer on Monday nights. During the fall, the seniors and mentors occupy the Academy every Monday night until 9 or 10 PM in preparation for the coming FIRST Robotics season that kicks off the first week of January.

“The mentors are willing to help the students and are really easy going.” said Zepeda. “It’s much less stressful than being in the classroom because this learning is not based on grades and tests but rather based on each individual’s hard work and perseverance to complete a project to the best of his ability and these mentors really encourage me to do so.”

“Without the Mentors we would not have the experience and help needed to do what we wish to accomplish;” said senior Alanna Kjoller. “We are so thankful for the help of all the talented people who are drawn to the academy.”

Anyone interested in becoming an Engineering Mentor is invited to contact Arn Adams, Engineering Mentor Coordinator ( Anyone interested in becoming a Business Mentor are invited to contact Gary Simpson, Business Mentor Coordinator (


About the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy:

The Santa Barbara School District, in collaboration with the Santa Barbara County Education Office Regional Occupation Program (ROP), determined that our community would benefit from the presence of an engineering program designed for students at the secondary level. The Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy (DPEA) was established in 2002 at Dos Pueblos High School, located at 7266 Alameda Avenue in Goleta, California. The DPEA offers a three-year integrated curriculum that covers physics, engineering, sculpture, design, and mechatronics. The capstone senior-level ROP Robotics course, which is supported by the Santa Barbara County Education Office, was added in 2005. The Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy has a broad base of community support, including UCSB, Santa Barbara City College, and local industry partners. The DPEA is a public school program, housed in the Elings Center for Engineering Education on the Dos Pueblos campus, that is open to all students in the Santa Barbara District. For more information on the Engineering Academy, please see


About the DPEA Foundation:

Engineering Academy parents established the DPEA Foundation in the fall of 2007 and launched a Capital Campaign to raise $3,000,000 for a new facility. The new Elings Center for Engineering Education opened in the fall of 2011. The DPEA Foundation mission is to enhance the quality of the DPEA learning experience and to facilitate the growth of the Academy by raising the necessary funds and by creating and managing systems and structures to support the program. For more information on the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation, please see


About FIRST Robotics:

The FIRST Robotics Competition is an exciting, multinational competition that teams professionals and young people together to solve an engineering design problem in an intense and competitive way. The program is a life-changing, career-molding experience and a lot of fun. Each year the competition reaches more than 60,000 students on over 2,600 teams in competitions held across the USA and in other parts of the world. The teams come from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the U.K., and every state in the U.S. The competitions are high-tech spectator sporting events: the result of lots of focused brainstorming, real-world teamwork, dedicated mentoring, project timelines, and deadlines. For more information on FIRST Robotics, please see

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2 Responses to “Community mentors volunteer to grow the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy”

  1. dcarr on November 19th, 2012 6:48 PM

    Awesome article and it’s amazing to see how the program is growing and continuing to sell! Rock on! Best regards from Team 3309.


  2. shedrick on October 29th, 2015 10:48 PM

    I want to teck path with your school training
    I am one of students attending Machineing fetter and engineering.


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Community mentors volunteer to grow the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy