students competing in robotics challengeCatlin Gabel's 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. Robotics starts in Middle School and continues through Upper School.

Participants in both the Middle School and Upper School programs design robots for entry in FIRST robotics competitions. Middle School participation is not required before joining the Upper School program.

For information and questions, please email Dale Yocum, Engineering Program Director,

LEGO Robotics

Spring Robotics

Start out by completing the self-paced introduction to programming in the graphical EV-3 language. After that, the sky's the limit. Come up with your own ideas for Lego robotic projects or pick one from our list. How about a robot that can draw? One that can beat other robots in Sumo wrestling? Soccer with Bluetooth radio? A Lego vending machine or monorail? Students should come with the idea they want to learn about engineering and programming, it's not a Lego free-for-all. No experience required.

Spring Robotics starts Tuesday April 24th, 2018 in the Outback building on campus (behind the gym) and continues to June 11th, 2018. Space is limited and Registration is required. The fee for Spring Robotics is $250 which enables students to come as often as they like from 3:15-5:00pm Monday-Friday on days school is in session.

These sessions are led by Dale Yocum, Engineering Program Director at Catlin Gabel School.

Fall Robotics

Middle School students design and program robots using LEGO parts and EV3 controllers. In the fall, teams of three to six students form and complete their work in time for local competitions held in mid-December and state competitions in mid-January. Teams are typically coached on a day-to-day basis by veteran Upper School students supervised by Dale Yocum, robotics program director. Fall robotics requires previous Lego robotics experience either through spring robotics at Catlin Gabel, prior work on a FLL team, summer classes at Catlin Gabel or elsewhere, or a class outside of the school. Students with extensive Lego robotics experience at home can complete a challenge assignment to have this prerequisite waived.

Details about fall competition

Our kick-off meeting will be early September, in the Outback building on campus from 3:15- to 5 p.m. Students must be pre-registered to attend this meeting and the meeting is required for all students taking part. After that, student schedules will vary depending on the team but all must come to the lab twice a week with their team. The lab is open every day after school.

We've found that FIRST LEGO League (FLL) can be a rewarding experience for students with long attention spans, superior teamwork skills, and who know what they are getting into because they've had prior exposure to LEGO engineering. Spring robotics or our summer camps is a much better launching pad for students new to the world of engineering and is generally a prerequisite for the fall teams.

Here's how FIRST LEGO League works at Catlin Gabel. In September students form teams of three to six to design, build, and program a robot for the competition. The members of the team divide up the work, just like a real engineering team. Some will specialize in mechanical design, others will do software or research presentation work. They typically come twice a week after school though this can vary depending on the needs of their team.

Students must complete their project by the early-December local competitions. At the competition their robot must perform a series of tasks on a standardized course to earn points. Each year the challenge changes. Teams also earn points at technical judging interviews and a research presentation to a panel of judges.

Teams that score high at the regional competitions are sent to the state competition in mid-January. There, the best 80 teams from around Oregon compete against one another. Last year two out of three Catlin Gabel teams advanced to the state competition.

Upper School students are hired as coaches for these FLL teams. These students are highly screened, are typically members of Catlin Gabel's high school robotics team, and had FLL experience in their younger days. Parents are also welcome to go through coach's training and volunteer to coach a team as well. Contact Dale Yocum is this is of interest.

Upper School Robotics

Upper School robotics starts near the beginning of the school year with our fall competition, BunnyBots, to learn the skills needed for competitions in January. Students then have six intense weeks to create a robot for entry in the nationwide FIRST robotics competition. Along the way, sub-teams get involved in mechanical, software, and electronics design and fabrication, website development, animation, computer-aided design, video production, marketing, graphic design, and public relations. The 130-pound robots are built from scratch using aluminum, steel, electronics, and pneumatics. They are programmed in Java. In many ways, the Upper School robotics program operates like a small company with students leading various departments. For MUCH more information about the Upper School robotics program visit the student-designed Upper School robotics website.

Important Links

EV3 Tutorial we use in all our classes.

Oregon FIRST Organizers (ORTOP)

FIRST National Organization

Championship Catlin Gabel Upper School Robotics Team

Robotics Tutorials

All of the tutorials we use in our classes were created by our very own Dale Yocum and can be found at

An independent preschool through 12th grade day school in Portland, Oregon
8825 SW Barnes Road,
Portland, Oregon 97225 |
503-297-1894 |

Explore why Catlin Gabel is a national leader in progressive education.

We welcome more than 100 new families annually to our inclusive community from the Portland area and beyond.


A demanding and engaging program in which each student is the unit of consideration

Playing sports involves life lessons in determination, grace, and resilience. We invite everyone to be part of a team.

Extensive support ensures our students are successful.

Learn about Catlin Gabel news and events on campus and beyond.

We foster a community that appreciates our differences and recognizes our essential unity

Every gift benefits our students. Every volunteer hour builds our community.

powered by finalsite