FIRST Robotics Community Center helping Bentley High School students expand team, gain exposure to college

“I think just by watching some of the other teams, they will see their accomplishments and see what they can do, as well."

In their second year as a team, members of the Bentley High School FIRST Robotics team -- Robo-Raptors -- are ready to push themselves harder and further than before.

They plan to do that through collaboration and teamwork that comes with working in the Kettering FIRST Robotics Community Center.

“I think just by watching some of the other teams, they will see their accomplishments and see what they can do, as well. This year we already had our robot moving only a couple weeks into the building season, which is a huge improvement from last year,” said Dawn Anderson, lead mentor of Robo-Raptors. “We are already learning from the other teams.”

The Bentley robotics team is one of eight teams with space at the FIRST Robotics Community Center. They work side-by-side with other high school teams, are mentored by Kettering students, faculty and staff, and have access to crucial resources.

Last year, the Bentley team had six students involved, but they have grown to 10 this year. Hoping to continue to grow and learn, their space last year wasn’t adequate.

They used one classroom with two tables and some chairs. With no practice field available, the team would use the library when necessary. By moving their space to Kettering, they now have the room and resources at their fingertips.

“We have the whole machine shop at our disposal. We have all the different teams that have been doing robotics longer than us and help us,” Anderson said. “It’s such a collaborative environment. It’s inspiring to see what they have accomplished and what they can accomplish and what we should strive for.”

Ian Cronkright, a junior at Bentley High School and a member of the Bentley Robo-Raptors, was excited to be in the FIRST Robotics Community Center this year.

Cronkright first got involved in FIRST because it seemed like a perfect fit for him. He loved taking apart electronics and putting them back together when he was younger. And when he got older he got into coding his own websites.

“It’s a giant RC car to me. It’s great,” Cronkright said. “The thrill of the competition is fun. I love it.”

Being one of the returning team members this year, Cronkright is hopeful for a better year than the last.

“This team brings everyone together,” Cronkright said. “I like watching it grow.”

Being involved in FIRST is a great opportunity for high school students, Anderson said, giving students a different outlet that they don’t always have in their classes.

“I think there are students who don’t play sports and who aren’t interested in those types of things that really enjoy working with their hands and working with computers. FIRST gives them an outlet to find a club to be involved with,” Anderson said. “A lot of kids are a bit bored in class. They don’t show the enthusiasm that they show at robotics. When they can really be involved in something they are passionate about, you can see this is where the fire is. It’s great to see them doing something they are really passionate about and enjoy.”

And it’s even better now that they can have the experience on a college campus, she said, adding that students are starting to think more about their future and that college can be a possibility.

“It’s awesome. I’m super excited for the opportunity for our kids to not only be exposed to the FIRST center, but also the Kettering students,” she said. “Some of these students might not have the access to be exposed to a college campus before this. It gives them more motivation and incentive.”