The Flushing Raider Robotics Team 5561 was created for students to learn to work together as a team, gain professionalism and gather engineering and programming skills they can’t get in their high school classrooms.
In only the second year of the FIRST Robotics team, the students are taking every opportunity to grow, learn and become better than the first year.
And with Kettering University’s help, they will have the opportunity this year. Jumping from six team members last year to 25 members this year, the team needed more space and resources to get the full FIRST experience, said lead mentor Gina Hodgins. The team is now among the eight teams housed in the FIRST Robotics Community Center (FRCC) at Kettering University.
“With this many kids interested I want them to have the most fulfilling experience possible,” said Hodgins, an English teacher at Flushing High School. “I want them to have the experience of an engineering school.”
The students were sharing a space with another team during their first year and options were limited to only weekends to work on their robots. They always needed to bring their resources, including computers. By moving to the FIRST Robotics Community Center they not only have access when they need it, they have access to computers, design programs and the machine shop.
Mentors are also on hand to enhance their training and expertise and they will have the opportunity to collaborate with other teams who use space in the FRCC.
They have the freedom to spend the time they need as a full team working on their robots, which would not have been possible in their previous space.
“It just allows the kids to be able to do what they want to do. We have built-in leaders, training for machinery, CAD and computer programming,” said Conner Wallace, a Flushing robotics team member. “This is always a learning opportunity. Now we can just talk to people who have been doing it for years. You have a think-tank on hand to deal with every question you may have.”
With the Kettering students, faculty and mentors, as well as other FIRST teams, the resources seem endless, said Tia Shingledecker, a Flushing robotics team member.
“It’s an unlimited library at our disposal,” Shingledecker said.
For both students, FIRST was an opportunity to expand their passion and interest in engineering. Taking things apart and put it back together has been something they’ve done since they were little.
Their FIRST experience has given them great opportunities to grow their skills. Both have an eye on attending Kettering after they graduate. Being able to work on campus and with Kettering students will be an added bonus for them
“I’ve always had an interest in Mechanical Engineering and the mechanical aspect of things. This allows me to dive deeper, try and learn to grow,” Shingledecker said. “It gives me a chance to see if I like it, not necessarily have all the answers but definitely learn.”
It’s more than just building robots. FIRST Robotics gets the students ready for college and builds their work ethic, Hodgins said.
“It gives them all that exposure to those computers, those programs, those mentors that I can’t provide for them,” Hodgins said. “One of the pluses is having those Kettering students who are the mechanical engineers, the electrical engineers, the programmers, to give guidance and teach them. You want them to enjoy the process.”
And when it comes to competitions, the students learn how to be gracious and professional. They learn to help another team out and learn from each other, which in the end makes for the best type of competition, Hodgins said.
“They learn how to look at things differently. They learn how to be more open to new ideas,” Hodgins said.
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