They have the technology, and then some: A talk with WGHS Robotics

photo by Lori Birch HEADED TO STATE! Team 8805 the Mustang Mechanist took home the Inspire award at the West Slope Qualifier. Team members include: Sierra Bensing, Connor Babcock, Jessica Gregory, Ian Rountree, Jayden Edson, Dominik Stefanik and Danielle DeMattos.
photo by Lori Birch HEADED TO STATE! Team 8805 the Mustang Mechanist took home the Inspire award at the West Slope Qualifier. Team members include: Sierra Bensing, Connor Babcock, Jessica Gregory, Ian Rountree, Jayden Edson, Dominik Stefanik and Danielle DeMattos.

by Mykaela A. Jones

Over the past weekends, January 26-27 saw good results for both teams. With 7224 winning the alliance from that competition and 8805 taking home the inspire award. This was the second successful weekend for the program as the competition held January 20 saw 8805 winning second place Alliance captain and the connect award, whereas 7224 took home the Motivate award. The robotics kids are still very much hard at work and with state coming up along with other competitions the program really appreciates the support the community has offered and continues to. Expect to hear a whole lot more from these kids.

The West Grand Robotics team has been facing many challenges over their season, and even in the face of all their adversities they have been able to make progress and bring a new light of hope to their small town division. I decided to interview the kids if the program to see what the community could know.

It was a beautifully hectic scene with all students gathering around to go over their plans for class that day when I arrived for the interview. After some time I followed team 8805 and their robot named “El Sexy” to the neighboring testing lab. They were eager and full of energy while answering my questions, cracking jokes and even giving me a sneak peak of what they tend to do in their time working.

When asked about huge goals they have achieved in the season so far, Jayden Edson, the team captain, mentioned how the team qualified as a top competitor due to knocking out five teams in their home robotics scrimmage match. Edson said that the team is a well balanced group of students who display work ethic like no other. Along with being top competitors they have received a bid for state and will be advancing. Connor Babcock, says that the team has improved on their numbers as a team, “Our team really picked up on harder work ethic and skills. I think what’s most important is that a lot of the new comers on the team really started to enjoy what they were doing in the program. When you really enjoy doing something you tend to do a lot better at it, and robotics is no exception.” When asked about their best moments as a team from the season, Edson and Babcock agreed when their robot finished a full task in the robotics games that took place earlier in the year, as seeing the intricate and well built machine do what it was supposed to be doing was satisfying and helped them win their bid to state. In terms of what could be improved on their project before they advance onto state competition, 8805 stated collectively that they needed to put the final touches on “El Sexy” as well as finishing the rest of their engineering notebook. Each member of 8805 had positive things to say about the robotics program, They each spoke with such charisma and passion for the intricate art of technology which they have been and continue to work hard on. After I conducted my questions with the team, they spent a good ten minutes cracking jokes with me. At the end of the day they may be doing amazing things for themselves and for West Grand. They are kids who love to have a good time.

As I moved on to team 7224 I was met with a scene of frantic and exciting pandemonia as I witnessed the team working on several different things as they prepared for the upcoming competition. It was a fun interview with the team as they are a group of kids who know how to work hard and have a good time while doing so.

When asked about the biggest achievements in 7224’s season, they collectively agreed that being able to complete every aspect of the robotics games, which had never been done before counted. Team captain, James Rindt, mentioned how the team had also improved as a whole, stating, “I would say that we’ve been a lot more productive and focused on these projects than we have in previous years.”

When asked about their teams improvements, Jonathan Belcher, who chimed in by saying that, “We’ve improved on our work ethic as a team.” The team also agreed that they have become more time efficient. James Rindt in particular saying, “We have put more effort into our robotics work instead of slacking off like we had been in the past few years.”

In recent months, community interest in STEM education growth at West Grand has truly increased. STEM, after all, is the future of the world and will produce over 1 million jobs in the United States workforce by 2020. So I wondered how WGHS robotics hoped to bring more attention to that with their hard work. I asked 7224, They have the technology, and then some: A talk with WGHS Robotics

“How would you say robotics benefits the development of STEM education in the community and how would you explain why STEM is so important?”

Jonathan Belcher offered one of the best answers that could have been given. He said, “Robotics has all the elements of STEM and it really is the future of the world. Not only are students in robotics learned skills in science, technology, engineering, and math, they are also learning a lot of important life and work skills, such as leadership and problem solving.” He conversed with me about the importance of the robotics team and more on their progress and their upcoming events for the team.

I also had the chance to speak with Lori Birch, director of the robotics program and teacher for most of the technology based classes at WGHS.

I asked her about what she feels is the biggest struggle for the robotics team is and if she had anything to add for the community and possible new students of robotics. Birch said, “the fact that we are a smaller team in a middle of nowhere small town in the mountains and we are competing against schools who have more access to STEM resources can be a challenge. Although, we have community support unlike any other.” She said. When she was asked about what she feels the community and the readers should know she mentioned how robotics helps students grow not only as students but as the future. She said, “Not only do we build robots, but students develop extreme leadership, teamwork, and problem solving skills. Even public speaking skills! I see students grow as individuals, and it creates people who will be more effective in the workforce.” I thanked her for her time and then she got back to work teaching as if she hadn’t stopped.

The robotics team is always looking to expand their numbers and continue to help better educate the community on STEM. When asked about what they would say to up coming students, or even students looking to try something new, both teams were very encouraging and positive in their inputs and suggestions. On the side of 7224, James Rindt says new students should, “just go for it, try something new. It is a really fun program and when you see how your work finally all comes together at competition, it is awesome.”

Jonathan Belcher stated that he’d “encourage them (new students) to consider joining. It’s a program that teaches you skills in life such as troubleshooting and problem solving. It also provides an environment to be creative and explore your interests in engineering with a team.”

Those from 8805 also had some advice for those looking to join. Connor Babcock suggested, “Go for it! A lot of careers can open up with the skills that you learn here and you are going to have a good time.” It was also implied that robotics is the hardest easy class that one can take, but they will not know until they try. After wrapping up my time with both teams I wished them luck at their upcoming competitions.