The freshman robotics team at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois, known as Team 8895E, was one of three winners in The Unite Online Challenge, sponsored by Google, the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation announced last week.
The team explains in a video presentation that they are “fixing the issue of exclusivity in robotics by creating and leading a robotics boot camp to give an opportunity for all students to get involved in robotics.”
According to the foundation, The Unite Online Challenge encourages students to recognize their unique power to make a positive difference. Teams can become “leaders of change,” the foundation asserts, by making their programs more inclusive and by validating that learning about STEM is more important now than ever before.
Winners, the schools or organizations that demonstrate in their presentation why robotics needs to be inclusive and not exclusive—and what they are doing to help this situation—earn an automatic entry into the Vex Worlds 2021 international competition in May, which will be all-virtual instead of in-person in Dallas, Texas.
“Sometimes the same kids are getting picked every year, and some kids that are really interested in robotics never really get a chance to get involved in it,” student reporter Gray Corkey quoted one team member as saying in the student newspaper. “We wanted to change that. We made this camp so that kids that have never been exposed to robotics or want more knowledge about it, they can get that. They’ll have a better chance of getting into their school teams or anything else related to robotics; they’ll have a good foundation.”
In their video, the team gives substantial credit to the faculty sponsor, science teacher Anthony Romeo, who has had the privilege of working with more than 100 students at the school associated with the robotics teams.
About the freshman team, he told the student newspaper, “They’re definitely freshmen in every aspect of the word. They’re extremely awkward. Talking to me they’re awkward, talking to each other they’re awkward, so it’s kind of funny to see at the beginning of the year, that incredible awkwardness.”
But that doesn’t mean they don’t have plans for their robotics boot camp, aimed at promoting inclusivity in STEM fields.
“In the future, we’re planning to expand our classes beyond the standard building, designing, and programming,” another student was quoted as saying. “Our goal is to make more advanced classes. They won’t only be for District 204. We want to branch out to other areas where everyone can join. You don’t have to be part of District 204, or even in Illinois. Our goal is to make anyone able to join.”