Viper Bots trippin’ for change, Robotics take on D.C.


Stony Lo

Copperhead representatives Allison Lo, Anamika Chinnakonda, Anjali Gorti attend National Advocacy Conference. They spent multiple days advocating for underfunded STEM programs.

Sarah McKelvy, Staff Reporter

The steps leading up to Congress are paved with innovation and the voices of the people seeking make an impact on the world. This summer, 3 VHS students stepped into the spotlight with a desire to advocate for those who can not stand up for themselves.

Each year the National Advocacy Conference is hosted in Washington DC with the goal of stimulating and challenging the minds of young STEM prodigy’s everywhere. This year one of our very own FTC robotics team, 12596 Copperhead, was fortunate enough to accept an invitation to this prestigious conference and they sent three representatives, senior Anamika Chinnakonda, senior Allison Lo , and junior Anjali Gorti to attend. 

“We learned about advocacy and advocating for increased federal funding for STEM programs like robotics,” Lo said. 

The government budget for STEM programs is approximately $1.6 billion dollars but only around $1.2 billion ends up getting used. The rest of the money goes to waste even though there are countless teams all across America who would greatly benefit from that money.

“I want to represent underfunded and underrepresented robotics communities who don’t have an equal opportunity to participate and succeed in STEM programs,” Chinnakonda said.

Although the conference was packed with countless hours of exhausting research and extensive conferences, the girls did get some valuable insight from it.

“It gave us a real experience of what being in Congress and having a fast paced life was like,” Gorti said. “One of the biggest challenges was all the late night prep work we had to do about new terms and legal stuff”

One of the most significant parts of the conference for them was learning and advocating for a bill called “Title IV-A” where the purpose was to support and enhance the opportunities available to students in STEM programs in underprivileged schools.

“School districts (LEA’s) can use Title IV-A grants to provide students with a well-rounded education and improve instruction and student engagement in STEM,”  Lo said.

Their effort to make a positive impact on the world was a success! In August of 2022, Title IV-A was passed paving the way for a more inclusive and successful STEM experience for people in all communities. 

“It’s a good feeling knowing that we were able to help others have a more immersive STEM experience,” Lo said.

Speaking up for groups who don’t have the opportunity to advocate for themselves isn’t always an easy task to undertake., but the feeling of changing lives is a rewarding experience that these students will have with them forever.

“This conference was an amazing experience and I would definitely attend something like this again.” Chinnakonda said.