Robotics Represent

Poway High School (PHS) is home to one of the most successful high school robotics programs in the world. FIRST Robotics competition Team 1622, better known throughout the community as Team Spyder, teaches students not just the basics of building and programming, but also the essential principles of safety, teamwork, and community involvement. The program has grown from its original seven members to a team of over 70 students. Coaches and mentors support the student-driven program throughout the season of competitions and outreach events. We spoke with Head Coach Rodger Dohm to learn more.

Q&A with Head Coach Rodger Dohm

cv_teamspyder1What is Team Spyder?
Team Spyder is the robotics team that represents the Poway High Engineering Academy and builds robots to compete in competitions like FRC and VEX. But we’re so much more than that. As a robotics team, we’re set apart by our commitment to safety, our countless mentorships and events, and our insistence on simple community involvement. As members, Spyders get to learn to program and build robots, be part of a real business environment, and participate in everything from fairs to local government meetings! If you want to get involved and help others get involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), if you want to get real business experience, if you want to travel to events throughout the country, if you want to get plenty of college credit and possibly even some scholarships, or if you just want to build a robot, Team Spyder is the place for you.

What is the history of the team?
The team started in 2002 with the first competition called RoboRocks at City College. From there, the next three years we participated in a competition called BotBall and then in 2005 started participating in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). Although we have participated in FRC every year since 2005, we also have participated in many other competitions such as the Student Showcase at the San Diego County Fair, CoDrone, FIRST VEX Challenge (FVC), Northrop Grumman Innovation Challenge, and IROC to name a few. We started with our original seven members of the FRC competition in 2005 and have now grown to over 70 students. The program evolved from a club to a full-fledged program were students also receive credit on their transcripts, can earn scholarships, and can letter in robotics, and it’s part of an Engineering Academy at the school. Team Spyder 1622 now participates in STEM and robotics outreach all over the world. We are currently working with schools and teams in Poland, Benin, Mexico, and Turkey. We will be adding support to the San Diego/Imperial Council of the Boy Scouts of America and Micronesia this coming season. We are internationally known and have won more awards than any other robotics team in FIRST Robotics in the county. Teams and schools from all over the world seek help and support from Team Spyder and the Poway Engineering Academy regularly.


What is your role with the team?
I am the head coach, advisor, and leader of the team as well as the Engineering Academy coordinator. My role is to be a liaison between the school and the students. The team is led by students, and I assist them. The team is an Associated Student Body (ASB) organization on campus where students are leaders and run the organization. There is a student president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. The advisor or head coach manages the two assistant coaches who also lead students, and all three coaches lead our 20-plus mentors who teach, guide, mentor, and lead students on various performance tasks, learning skills, and completing deliverables. Additionally, there is a booster organization that serves in boosting the team through logistics (travel, food, and lodging) and fundraising. The boosters are members of the community, including parents, mentors, and business partners. Student leaders are partnered with a mentor for sustainability and managing successful outcomes.

At-A-Glance | Head Coach & Advisor

Name: Rodger Dohm
Community: Ramona
Hobbies & Interests: STEM, robotics, woodworking, antiquarian book collecting, and genealogy
Family: Married with five kids, all in Ramona schools
Favorite Places in 92064: Poway High School

At-A-Glance | Team Spyder

Head Coach: Rodger Dohm
Assistant Robotics Coaches: Todd Parr and Jason Lindquist
Chairman’s Mentor Lead: Craig Sanders and Tracy Nguyen, O.D.
Number of Students: 70+
Instagram: @Spyder1622

cv_teamspyder8What is your professional background, and what sparked your interest in working with high school robotics students?
For 22 years, I have been an educator at Poway High, and I was a founding teacher at High Tech High. I hold a B.A. in mathematics and art, an M.A. in Educational Leadership, and a Masters in Governance from the California School Boards Association. I have served nearly 12 years on the Ramona Unified School District Board of Education and have been the board president four years. My interest in starting to infuse robotics into the school and working with students was the realization that the United States has a great need to fill jobs in the field of engineering. Statistics show that for every one job that is filled by an engineer, three engineering jobs go unfilled because the demand is so high and not enough people are seeking out engineering careers. An increase in the numbers of people pursuing engineering careers in the U.S. will provide companies with a workforce that will ultimately reduce the number of jobs that need to be outsourced. The U.S. currently cannot fill the engineering career demand. My goal with the Engineering Academy and robotics at PHS is to work with students to get them interested and excited about pursuing the field of engineering as an educational and career goal. I also have a goal to bring more girls to STEM fields.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role? The most challenging?
The most rewarding is to see the change in the lives of the students and them getting excited about STEM and robotics. The most challenging is the logistics and just the hard work involved in the background making this possible for the students. I sacrifice much time from my family and personal time to make it so.


2018-19 Student Leadership Team

President: Hirohito Fainza (senior)
Vice President: Myra Ashraf (junior)
Programming Lead: Christine Wakayama (junior)
Mechanical Lead: Lorenzo Fisher (junior)
Community Outreach Lead: Madalyn Nguyen (freshman)
Safety Lead: Ryan Barnett (senior)
Imagery Lead: Noah Burns (sophomore)
Electrical Lead: Jenna Cao (sophomore)
Treasurer: Geary Smart (sophomore) and Catherine Farrish (senior)
Secretary: Arshia Alenaddaf (sophomore) and Aidan Friend (junior)
3D CAD Modeling Lead: Ethan Champion (junior)

Team Spyder Mentors

Chairman’s Mentor Lead: Craig Sanders and Tracy Nguyen, O.D.
Mechanical Mentor Lead: Dave Fisher
Programming Mentor Lead: Sarah Rodriquez
Safety Lead: Scott Leslie
Spirit/Imagery Mentor Lead: Malgorzata Wieteszka-Slocomb
Web/Media Mentor Lead: Kyle Brennan
Booster President: Cathy Pieroni
Booster Vice President: Blanca Fisher
Booster Secretary: Sandra Gonzalez
Booster Treasurer: Lori Croston
Mechanical Mentors: Michael Mascarenhas, Oscar Rodriguez, and Pete Ellis
CAD Mentor: Kevin Beer
Programming Mentors: Mark Pieroni and Stefanus Widjaja


How can students join the team?
Students can go to to the forms page and fill out the application. It is open to all PUSD students in grades 9 to 12. The application will be open in mid-August. We accept homeschoolers and a few eighth graders as well that have proven themselves with a strong STEM or robotics background.

How does Team Spyder stay connected to the local community?
We participate in events, host events, and are visible in the community by trying to be at as many events as possible. We run e-waste events as well as the four robotics events within our Poway community. This year, we will be participating in new events such as the Jack-O-Smash Run and Family Festival. We also are involved with the Boy Scouts and Include Autism, to name just a few.


Are there any ways for the community to get involved?
Yes, you can become a mentor for the team or a sponsor. Please reach out to me at if you can help out. We always need adults to help mentor the kids, and we always need sponsors as robotics can be expensive.

Do you have any favorite memories or experiences with Team Spyder?
My favorite memory was when the team won the Las Vegas Regional in 2009. Our student president died in an automobile accident that year and the entire team worked their hardest, both parents and students. That win was dedicated to Tony Schafer, our president that passed away during our season. I’ll never forget speaking at the funeral and the motivation that it gave me to continue on with this program for kids. Robotics changes lives. I have seen it every year I work with students!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Just that we can always use sponsors to help us with participating in events and also reaching out in helping international schools trying to bring in STEM and robotics. Our goals right now are to raise $157,000 this year. Any help from the community would be greatly appreciated.

2017-18 Season Accomplishments


Student Showcase at the San Diego County Fair
Best of Show 4803 Robotics Engineering Project Group – Fabricated, Class 008

FIRST (FRC) San Diego Regional presented by Qualcomm
≥ Regional Engineering Inspiration Award – FIRST Championship Qualifying Award
≥ Safety Award sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories
≥ Competed in quarterfinals as 3rd alliance member


FIRST (FRC) Hawaii Regional
≥ Safety Award sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories
≥ Entrepreneurship Award sponsored by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers
≥ Fernanda Araya Valerio wins the Star of the Day Award
≥ Competed in semifinals as 4th seeded captain

FIRST (FRC) Canadian Rockies Regional
≥ Safety Award sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories
≥ Imagery Award in honor of Jack Kamen
≥ Arshia Alenaddaf wins the Safety Star of the Day Award
≥ Competed in semifinals as 3rd seeded captain


FIRST (FRC) World Championships in Houston, TX
≥ Safety Pit of the Day Award
≥ Fernanda Araya Valerio wins the Star of the Day Award
≥ Competed in quarterfinals as 4th alliance member

CoDrone in San Diego, CA
≥ 2nd Place overall Event
≥ 1st Place in Programming (Coding)

VEX (FRC) North County Regional in San Diego, CA
Create Award

VEX (FRC) Chula Vista Regional in San Diego, CA
Create Award