ALPENA, Mich. (AP) — Local schools are becoming more involved with robotics programs. Being in robotics helps students in their classes, helps them create leadership roles and helps build a student’s work ethic.
STEM education — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is a new movement in American education that helps prepare students for the workforce. Being involved in STEM education classes helps a student prepare for the job openings that will be available.
“There are so many job openings right now, especially in Michigan,” teacher Melissa Doubek said. “There are job openings in stem-related careers and there are possibilities for jobs here in Alpena.”
One benefit of STEM education is that what students learn in their classes helps them in robotics and they can apply what they learn in class to the robots they are working on.
“We have our math and science classes and together with our work ethic, we can put those together to build the robots,” AHS sophomore Aaron West said.
Along with applying their school work to robotics, students learn about time management because they learn how to balance their time outside of the classroom. West said being in robotics helps students focus in their classes.
“We make sure that our classes are in top order because if our grades drop, we are not allowed on the team,” he said.
When Alpena goes to tournaments, West said students make sure that their homework is done before the tournament by using their time efficiently so they are able to compete.
“Robotics makes you realize how important hard work is and also realizing the value of cooperating with other people,” sophomore Emeline Hanna said. “Even if something goes wrong, you should still be determined to keep going because there are things that will go wrong in robotics.”
Robotics gives students experience in the science field and also gets the students interested and excited about learning new things. Doubek said some students never know that they are interested in engineering before joining robotics, but once they join, they get excited.
“They realize that what they are learning in math, physics, business and advertising, and public relations during the school day is important in robotics,” she said.
Students realize they like certain fields of science and there are different fields that students can pursue careers in. Doubek said there are some students who aren’t interested in engineering, but are instead interested in medicine. She said some students realize they want to learn leadership skills when in robotics.
“That is just as important as the students realizing that they want to go into engineering,” Doubek said. “We put a lot of students in leadership roles because we are trying to grow the leaders of tomorrow.”
When students are a part of a robotics program, they learn more than just building the robots with their teammates. Mentor Gary Stevens said robotics teaches students how to work in a group and as a team.
“You’re going to watch certain kids elevate as leaders and you’re going to watch other kids find things that they like to do,” he said.
Every student contributes in some way when they are a member of robotics. Stevens said there is a role for every student and if a student is concerned they’re not actively involved, there’s a way to help them and get them to contribute.
Mentor Kevin West said that outside of robotics, students learn how to develop and how to further themselves. He said that at the competitions, the students interact with the other teams and make friends with those on other teams.
Alpena’s robotics program has multiple teams, which gives students the opportunity to share their knowledge in a smaller group.
“Robotics is a hands-on team experience. It’s like a varsity sport for the mind,” Stevens said.
Alpena High School hosted an offseason tournament the first weekend of November where the teams played last year’s game, the Alpena News reported . West said the offseason tournament is a good eye-opener for what the competitions are going to be like in the winter.
The tournament also gave teams more practice working with robots and exposed the new kids to what FIRST Robotics is all about. Most of the teams that participated had inexperienced drivers driving the robots to prepare themselves for the season.
“They got to see what a tournament looks like and got their interest sparked,” Doubek said. “When build season begins in January, they will already know what the end goal is.”