"I remember having a class in middle school that provides general learning about computers and technology, but when I got here (to Norcross High School), I didn't initially know this program existed", recalls Norcross High School senior Wesley Hong, who is now a part of the Norcross High School Robotics team, also known as the "Gear Devils (1379)".
It's a story that does warrant a broader knowledge and support when you consider the hands-on learning and applications the students are able to build upon. I am able to get introduced to their story at one of their after-school meetings, and it's a story that is clearly "in gear" in seeing how math, science, technology, and tapping into student interests and creativity can come together.
Since his sophomore year, Hong and other students are part of the organization that meets about three times per week, especially as they prepare for their major competitions. During the fall semester, the club, which falls under larger governing bodies including usFIRST and the TSA (Technical Students Association), competes in the FTC (First Tech Challenge), an intermediate level competition.
"Every year, the game design they provide is different", adds fellow senior Kelvin Chong. "We are normally provided with a kit and some parts, and then we have to develop the project (i.e. it can be in the form of a game or another applied robotics application)".
And then comes the spring.
The club participates in the more advanced competition, the FRC (First Robotics Challenge). This normally takes place at Georgia Tech. Unlike the fall event, this contest is more conceptual and more difficult in nature. Students have to apply their knowledge of math, science, and physics, and they are only provided with motors. The rest falls on the team members to produce a fully functional robotics operation.
With the hands-on learning provided, there are multiple opportunities for students for high school and beyond. Their advisor, Mr. Floyd, more affectionately known as Coach Floyd, shifts his extra-curricular focus from the gridiron to the larger field of science and STEM based (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning.
"I've been blessed to work with some good kids who have a good work ethic; they really want to succeed", Coach Floyd remarks when asked about the students he works with. "Through the competitions and other applied work, a number of students have the opportunity to earn scholarships in fields ranging from robotics, web-design, and other opportunities; based on current trends, 20 years from now (if not sooner), the demand for people in these fields is going to be even larger. It's great to see the "light-bulb" come on when kids are able to problem solve on this level".
Given all the club and students have going on is impressive enough. but the students and club welcome support and encouragement on multiple levels, ranging from in-kind donations (i.e equipment to compete and complete their designs) and financial contributions for tasks ranging from travel and other related instances.
"Any community support is welcomed and appreciated; it helps reinforce the notion of supporting student success and achievement (in addition to what we receive from our advisor, teachers, and our families)", adds Hong.
For members of the community interested in finding out more about the club and ways to support their technology-driven efforts, it is recommended that contact is made with the club advisor (firstname.lastname@example.org) or club community contact Bradley Johnson (email@example.com). Support of student efforts and achievement on any level can not only make a positive impact, but serve as an investment in one's present and future.
It sounds like it's time to get in gear...