SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The high school robotics team at San Francisco’s Ruth Asawa School of the Arts (SOTA) has become victims of thieves twice since Christmas Eve.
“It’s just kind of shocking and a little rattling,” said Teela Damian, a 17-year old junior and member of the SOTA Cyberdragons robotics team.
Damian said the thieves stole about $11,000 worth of computers and other equipment from a temporary shed constructed by the team on the campus.
The Cyberdragons shared surveillance video of the first burglary on Christmas Eve with KPIX. It appears to show two young men breaking into the robotics building then escaping on a bicycle.
“They broke in once and stole the computers,” said Damian. “So we bolted all the doors and we were like, ‘Okay, this is great.’”
“They, being good engineers, said, ‘Well, there’s a good engineering solution for this. Let’s get additional deadbolts to secure the doors,’ which they did,” said John Fox, a parent of one of the students. “It worked so well that they had to smash through the wall in order to gain entrance and pull the stuff out (in the second burglary.)”
The second burglary happened Saturday, Jan. 11. Thieves appeared to cut through the wall because they couldn’t get through the extra door locks.
The Cyberdragons have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay for replacing all the laptops and special tools, which include handheld power tools and a drill press. They are also having to recover some of the work that was taken away, including code.
“Our software team is doing all they can to rewrite all the code that was lost when the computers were stolen and we’re just trying to recover from lost time,” Damian said.
Once they replace the computers and tools, the Cyberdragons also hope to convince the school district to let them obtain a more secure facility for future projects. A lot of the cash has already been raised, which the students and their parents say is a significant silver lining.
“You have students on other robotics teams, alumni, colleagues of parents,” said Fox. “They’ve all stepped up. To be able to raise the money to at least make them whole. That makes the kids feel good and they realize they need that morale.”