Ferndale Robotics Students Seek Support to Attend State Competition
Robotics programs can be the "spark" for many students to pursue careers in engineering, said Ferndale robotics mentor Jeffrey Shewell.
Students from Ferndale High School recently qualified to compete at a statewide robotics competition coming up later this month, but they need community support to get there.
According to Cathleen Rutsey, one of the school's robotics mentors, the entrance fee to compete April 12-14 is $5,000 and the team has raised $2,000 of that so far. The students are selling LED lightbulbs for $17 and also seeking donations, she said.
The students previously finished ranked 29th out of 193 Michigan high school teams at the district event in Livonia.
Robotics can be the 'spark' to pursue engineering career
According to Ferndale robotics mentor Jeffrey Shewell, the 20 students on the team spent six weeks working tireless hours designing, building, programming and testing a robot to play a game similar to basketball.
"The goal of the FIRST robotics competition is to frame science and technology in a sports-like atmosphere to get the students interested in engineering and the sciences," Shewell said. "The students are able to go to a gym to watch and cheer on the robot that they designed and built compete against robots from other high schools. That's not an experience that the students can get from a normal math or science class."
For Shewell, a local engineer who has been mentoring students in robotics for seven years, the best reward of mentoring is seeing students go on to college, graduate and become engineers.
"The robotics program is the spark for a lot of students to get them moving along a great career path," he said, adding that one of the students he worked with recently graduated from University of Michigan and just accepted a job at engineering firm Schaeffler, where he and Rutsey both work. "After mentoring a student throughout high school, then seeing that student become one of your peers is exciting and rewarding."
Students 'flex their brains' in robotics competitions
Shewell said the students just barely lost their final match at last weekend's competition and didn't find out they made it to the state competition until the state rankings were calculated and displayed after the event.
"When the students saw that we were qualified for the State Championship event, they started jumping around and cheering," he said.
Cheering on the robot that they designed and built during the competition and seeing how well it does, the students are driven to work harder each year, Shewell said.
"Unlike a football player that wants to do better, the robotics students don't flex their muscles to get stronger, they flex their brains to learn more about engineering," he said. "That feeling of accomplishment makes them want to work harder and learn more next year."
The state competition will be held at Eastern Michigan University. For more information on the fundraiser or how to donate, visit http://impirobotics.com or contact Shewell at email@example.com.