EVART – With competition season just around the corner, Evart High School and Middle School are kicking off their robotics-filled school year.
The high school is going into their third year of programming and building robots, while Evart Middle School is just getting ready for its first year.
“We started with the Dash and Dot robots but we wanted to get more involved,” said middle school principal and Tech Titans coordinator, Jason O’Dell.
Both O’Dell and high school math teacher, Ted Marthakis, believe that these programs are important in giving students a place to call their own.
“We are trying to offer something for every student,” said O’Dell. “The goal is to get all the students in our population to get involved in something.”
“We can’t all be jocks,” said Marthakis. “Having a program like this give students who don’t have an interest in sports or can’t play, an opportunity to get involved in something and make connections.”
With these after-school opportunities at both the middle and high school levels, students are not only learning how to code and engineer but also forming work ethic.
“Once we find out what we are building we have 40 days to design, build and program a robot,” said Marthakis. “And these kids work, and I mean really work, to get a robot ready for competition. There are nights during that stretch where students are (at school) until 8 or 9 at night.”
Building a robot also requires problem-solving skills and the kids to work together, according to Marthakis.
“When the kids are building these robots,” he said, “they might get done with what they thought would originally work and then realize they have to rebuild something. It requires an immense amount of problem solving and communication with the whole team. If they can’t do that, the robot won’t get done or be as good as they want it to be.”
The high school robotics team has always done well in competition since starting three years ago, according to Marthakis, and this year is expected to be no different.
“We have never gone to state but I am expecting for us to do really well this year,” he said.
To help prepare for this year’s competitions, both schools are looking to Reed City High School to be mentors to the kids and pass along their 12 years of knowledge.
“We are hoping to have Reed City come in and mentor the kids,” said O’Dell, “along with the students from the high school.”
Marthakis says that over the years Reed City has been a “huge help” when it comes to anything from advice or last-minute parts.
“They have always been there if we need anything,” he said. “There have been a few times where the kids need a part and I have called up the Reed City team and they have been more than happy to give us what we need.”
The teams across the state helping each other and sharing knowledge is something Marthakis really enjoys about these competitions.
“Even when we go to compete, all the different teams are talking and helping each other out. It is just a really cool thing to watch,” said Marthakis. “It’s a competition but the kids don’t really look at it that way, they just like coming together and sharing that common interest.”
As far as what kind of robot either school will be building, there is no way to know until the games are announced in January. The clubs, however, will have meetings prior to competition season to train new members and get a team together.