For the last five years, students at McClain High School have been able to experience robotics up close and personal, both as a class and an extracurricular activity.
According to teacher Nathan Luke, the skills learned through robotics help students learn in incredible ways, and in ways that translate to life in general.
“Simply put, robotics helps students get through failure,” he said. “When designing and building a robot, students will fail. When programming the robot, students will fail. It teaches them to dream and design an idea based on criteria that need to be met, build that idea, and then tell it what to do through the Python programming language.”
The students are learning things with real-world applications. As an example, Luke said a couple years ago students went on a mini field trip to Corvac Composites in Greenfield to visit the production line. Students realized quickly that the programming environment there was very similar to how they perform programming at the school.
Robotics teams have seen success through the years, too, and this year an all-girls team ended up earning a special award at a recent 50-team contest near Cincinnati called the Harrison Competition.
The all-girls team, composed of Emalee Montgomery, Emily Hester, Vivian Dennis and Diamond Justice and known collectively as The Pink Ladies, recently spoke to the Greenfield Exempted Village Board of Education at a board meeting and told them all about their experience.
They competed contest with their robot, Dot, which they designed, built and programmed themselves. They walked away from that competition with the Judge’s Award, which is bestowed on the team that demonstrates excellent interview skills, note booking skills, teamwork, and robot design competency.
The Pink Ladies explained their different roles on the team and how they have grown through the year because of the experience. They told board members about being an all-girl robotics team and participating in something in which females are underrepresented. Because of that, they wanted to play on their “girl power,” so Dot was pink and stylized in the way of all things feminine. While the girls said their robot may not have always been the biggest or even the best performer in the field, she was always the prettiest.
Robotics at McClain High School has been successful since the inception of the program. A couple years ago the program was highlighted in a newspaper article as the Greenfield teams were headed to a big competition with at least a couple of teams already qualified for state competitions.
In that time, Luke talked about the challenging nature of robotics, but also the part where students are overcoming obstacles with something they have built from scratch. He also talked about how working as a team is imperative to the success of the team.
Participation has not waned since the pandemic either, and this year robotics students especially excelled at documentation and overall teamwork, Luke said.
“As an athlete in high school myself, I was involved in plenty of moments that made me nervous or anxious,” Luke said previously. “None of those moments compare to watching the kids in robotics that care so much about a chunk of metal and seeing them compete like it was a national championship on the line.”
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Exempted Village School District.