Kendrick Castillo’s Father Makes Emotional Return To Late Son’s Robotics Team

September 16, 2019
STEM SCHOOL ROBOTOCS TEAM RETURNSSTEM SCHOOL ROBOTOCS TEAM RETURNSHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Kendrick Castillo's father, John, greets friends at STEM School Highlands Ranch robotics lab as students there huddled Monday, Sept. 10, 2019, before beginning work on updates to Kendrick's robot, which they are entering in a competition. Kendrick was killed at the school in a shooting earlier this year.

Four months ago, Kendrick Castillo was killed in the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch. He was involved in the school's robotics team and so was his dad, John Castillo.

“It's my first time back since our son lost his life, and I was the coach and lead mentor on the team,” John Castillo said on a visit with the team last week. “I want to see how they're doing and support them any way I can.”

Castillo spoke with Colorado Matters about his son’s death and the legacy Kendrick leaves behind, including the robot he helped fabricate and a robotics tournament. The Kendrick Castillo Memorial Tournament is Sept. 28 at East High School in Denver.

“It brings me joy knowing that he was a good leader and a hero for this school and the community,” he said. “When I look at the robot, it reminds me of him. I get emotional. Hopefully, these kids will pick up the torch and they'll live their life as Kendrick did and do great things with robotics and move into aerospace like he wanted to do.”

Every day is a struggle, John Castillo said, but he is advocating for radical change in school safety as he grieves.

Kendrick’s teammate Corbin Baird, a senior, is fine-tuning the robot he and Kendrick had worked on in preparation for the tournament. Baird is trying to fix design flaws in the robot’s claw.

He said although it feels good to be back in school, the summer was robbed from STEM students.

“Because of the incident, we kind of had to go to a lot of events that we would not have had to go to,” he said. “It was kind of as if that month was gone from our lives.”

Jack Graber is a parent of two STEM students and mentors the robotics team. He said right after the shooting, the team banded together.

“It was a very traumatic event,” he said. “I'm hopeful that all the kids that were affected, all the parents that were affected, can find their way through the mess. Hopeful that I can help our kids on the team move through some of this. Hopeful that we can get through this and lead a good life.”