Invasion of the Borobots

metro

Springboro Robotics Program builds toward the future

By Jimaur Calhoun

Photo: Harnessers of Darkness discuss modifications to their robot prior to the first round of competition in 2015; photo: Jerry Brewster

Let’s face facts, people—technology is a part of our lives and it isn’t going anywhere, whether you feel it helps or hinders humanity. If society wants to look at things from a positive perspective, there are multiple ways that technology has helped people in the fields of medicine, communication, and transportation. If people want to see where technology can lead them, they should look toward programs that will interest children in the field and motivate them to design and build future technology.

In the Miami Valley, Springboro Robotics Group provides a program does just that.

“The purpose of the program is to let children experience science, technology, engineering, and math [STEM] in a fun and competitive manner.” says Jerry Brewster, a logistics consultant at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the founder of program. “I originally started the after school program solely for sixth-graders, but since its beginnings in 2006, it has expanded to children of kindergarten to senior year high school age.”

In describing how he became inspired to start the program, Brewster says, “I became aware of the robotics programs around 2005, when my children were in grade school. I thought it was an excellent opportunity for them to learn some STEM skills in a fun way. I asked the school district if I could start the program. So, I can say that my kids were the inspiration.”

Springboro Robotics Group follows a regime originated by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an international youth organization that operates FIRST Robotics Competitions based on age levels. Most group activities use LEGO brand robotics that allow children to write programs and build robots with the ability to move autonomously. The program has students participate in group activities such as scientific research projects on specific themes every year just, showing they are not always about building robots that could destroy mankind.

The teams compete in regional tournaments all over Ohio, five being held in every county (Franklin, Montgomery, Hamilton, etc.) with the winners of these qualifiying for the five district tournaments held across Ohio. The winners of these go onto the state championships held at the Nutter Center. In 2015, the Lightning Trampolines from Carlisle High School, were named the Ohio Champions and received an invitation to compete at the World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2015.  While FIRST doesn’t receive much to any national media coverage, Springboro Robotics has appeared in the Dayton Daily News, on local television shows, and right here in the Dayton City Paper.

“I believe that children can benefit from the Springboro Robotics Group by learning scientific research methods, working as a team, building confidence, and learning of public speaking,” Brewster says. “These are skills that colleges are looking for and these are the skills that will help prepare them for careers as scientist and teachers. We believe that these are the skills that will help the children the most in life.”

The recognition of the group by the Springboro school district helps promote the school district, letting people know that Springboro schools take STEM seriously. The program will help bring acknowledgment of technology back to the United States, as well. “Within the past few years, Europe and Asia—predominately China—have become the leading powers in technology. I feel that people would like for the United States to become the leading number again and programs like the Springboro Robotics Program could be a step in that direction,” Brewster says.

Brewster concludes that adults play a large role in making the program possible.

“As I oversee the program, parents are recruited to coach the teams of children,” he says. “We have as many as 96 kids involved, so we need adults for transporting the children to any event… We encourage parents to work with their children […] whether for a project or helping build. The program is all for families working together, if needed, because learning is a family affair.”

There is a catch to those wanting to apply for the group: Springboro Robotics Group is sponsored by the Springboro School District, limiting participation is to those that reside in the area. However, the group does outreach work, encouraging other school districts to create similar groups. “When the opportunity arrives, we try to provide our services to other school districts to get projects off the ground,” Brewster says.

So, if you’re a parent in the Springboro area and thinking of expanding your child’s mind and meeting like-minded peers, consider signing them up for the Springboro Robotics Group. Your child’s mind and imagination could make them the next Bill Gates or, if needed, John Connor.

The FIRST LEGO® League Ohio State Championship takes place Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 4 and 5 in McLin Gym and Arena at Wright State University’s Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy. in Dayton. For more information or to sign up for next year, please visit Borobots.org.

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Jimaur Calhoun
Reach DCP freelance writer Jimaur Calhoun at JimaurCalhoun@DaytonCityPaper.com

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