By: Megan A. Wilson, Contributing Writer
Boyne City High School has a number of academic and scholastic programs and its latest addition is its robotics team.
Coached by Dale Thomason, who is also a teacher at the school, the program was originally suggested and funded by a grant from First Robotics.
“We received an email asking us if we were interested in the program, and the principal passed it on,” said Thomason. “I had seen something like this on television before, and I thought it would be a nice opportunity for the kids.”
The team is called The Boyne City Blaze, and consists of around 18 students, both male and female.
“I joined because I wanted to enhance my knowledge of robotics and engineering,” said Kelly Ballant, a freshman at Boyne City High School. “I think that it is very interesting, right now I know that I want to go to college but I don’t really have a career choice yet.”
“I chose electrical engineering for my career and I wanted to see what it’s like so that’s why I joined the team, ” said Chris Moore, a senior at Boyne City High School. “I’ll be attending Olivet Nazarene University.”
“I think that it’s going to be a good experience and it will look good on my resume” said Kayla Johnson. “This is a great club for girls, robots aren’t just for boys anymore.”
Johnson will be attending Western Michigan University to pursue an educational degree at the high school or college level.
Robotics teams have a short season, running from January until March and are based on a themed challenge, which teams have to build a robot to complete the challenge the quickest.
“Rebound rumble is this year’s challenge and has the robot picking up small sized basketballs and shooting them at basketball goals.”, said Thomason. “It also has the robot crossing the barriers to get to the other side and pick up balls.”
Along with Thomason, students work with mentors, which are adults that have practical knowledge of the industry.
Mike Webster of Melrose Manufacturing has been helping students with different welding forms and is also teaching them how to use a plasma cutter.
Webster is president of the Boyne City Booster Foundation and is also a substitute teacher at the school.
“I hope that being in the robotics club will give the students experience that they will be able to put on their resume for when they enter college.”, said Webster. “They’re applying the mathematical skills you learn in school to build the robot.”
Debbie Rushlow and her husband Gordy also mentor students, they are both in the engineering industry.
“I became a mentor for the team because our son David has been involved in the First Robotics program since he was in elementary school.”, said Rushlow. “We moved here from downstate and were very excited when this program started.”
IMI has been very helpful in the design of the robot, donating the use of its facilities, a laser table and CNC brake press so that the students could use it to aid in the design process of the robot.
Josh Habel, an employee of IMI has been mentoring the students in the use of CAD cam for the design process.
Thomason reiterated about the program saying, “This team isn’t just about building a robot, it’s about helping kids develop leadership skills, showing them how to be able to think independently and grow mentally.”
The robotics team was able to show off their robot at a home basketball game by driving it on the sidelines.