Robotics & Engineering

student working on a robot

Catlin Gabel's engineering and robotics program involves students with real-world engineering, computer science, design, math, and applied physics. The team and project-management skills learned here last a lifetime. 

Engineering is one of the largest extracurricular activities in the Upper School, with more than ten percent of the study body taking part, and about 40 percent of participants are female. Registration opens in early September.


Students from 8-12th grade at any skill level can join the Catlin Gabel Robotics team, known as the "Flaming Chickens." In fact, before joining the team, most members had never used the majority of the tools available in our lab.

Robotics starts just after the beginning of the school year and skills are quickly put to the test with the fall competition, BunnyBots. This event helps them prepare for the national FIRST Robotics competition that occurs in January in which they create a 130-pound robot from scratch. Students quickly form sub-teams where they can work on mechanical, software, and electronics design and fabrication, website development, animation, computer-aided design, video production, marketing, graphic design, and public relations. They use aluminum, steel, electronics, and pneumatics to create the robot and the systems are programmed in Java. In many ways, the program operates like a small company with students leading various departments. For more information about the program visit the student-designed Upper School robotics website.

community engineering

The program is about more than robots. The team has won over $60,000 in prizes for its community engineering work that has devised solutions to problems as varied as water transportation and disinfection in developing countries, engineering projects that help the employment prospects of the disabled, to bringing solar power and light to the previously houseless in Portland.

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Students Take First in National Source America Design Challenge Competition

In 20-21, the Engineering Program was fully remote. Multiple student-led teams worked on different projects. The ZipBag team beat out other national high schools and won first place. The team documented how they used their robotics knowledge to bring the idea to life in the below video.