Farwell’s New “Robotnic” Team to Compete This Spring

January 27, 2020

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Thanks to The FIRST organization, a $14,500 Michigan Department of Education (MDE) grant, and $3,400 more donated along with $1,100 in in-kind support from community partners, Farwell’s new robotics club, or team will be able to compete against 20-30 other local teams at Ferris State University on March 26th in a three-day event.

The MDE grant the team, named “Robotnic,” just received has been used to buy tools, and upgrades for the robot that the team will use to build a competition robot.

The robot the team is building will be computerized and autonomous (able to complete a task with just the push of a button). “We hope to have it built by the end of the month,” Coach Tyler Thayer said. “That will give us time to learn how to operate it.”

“We are still in the design stage and are waiting for the last of the components we need,” Thayer said. He said they have purchased the $6,000 base kit from FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a non-profit organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use and enjoy science and technology. As a sponsor of the world-wide robotics teams, FIRST also took $4,000 off the purchase cost of the base kit.

FIRST was founded in 1989 by Woodie Flowers and Dean Kamen, who heads up FIRST and is best known as the inventor of the Segway. Kamen holds 440 U.S. and international patents for his inventions. He is also known for creating devices such as the first wearable drug infusion pump for diabetics and other types of patients.

“Based in Manchester, NH, the 501 (C)(3) not-for profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math while building self-confidence, knowledge and skills,” the FIRST website says.

Kamen said on the website, “FIRST is more than robots. The robots are a vehicle for students to learn important life skills. Kids often come in not knowing what to expect of the program, or of themselves. They leave, even after the first session, with a vision, with confidence and with a sense that they can create their own future.”

The site says, “FIRST participation is proven to encourage students to pursue education and careers in STEM -related fields, inspire them to become leaders and innovators and enhance their 21st century work-life skills.”

The five-member team of Farwell High School students – Amber Flowers, Gordon Smith, Tyler Phelps, Bishop Wilson and Vincent White – meet with Coach Thayer every Wednesday afternoon from 3:40 to 5:30 p.m.

The design and planning stage for the robot they are building has been going on for around a year. Thayer, who is a Design Engineer at Melling Products, said, “I met with the school about a year ago and asked if they would be interested in a robotics club. I wanted to give something back, something I’m good at, something that I enjoy doing.”

Thayer said, “This program lets young engineers try out different disciplines within the engineering field without spending four years in college to find out they don’t enjoy the field they went into. It also inadvertently develops marketing and management skills. This is important because outside of this program, most students wouldn’t get to try a thing like designing, building and programming a robot.

Melling Products supported his plan. They donated $500 to get the club/team started, he said. “they also gave me time away from work to attend training and attend the upcoming competitions.”

“When we started, we didn’t really have a direction or the funds to accomplish much,” Thayer said. “We spent our meetings discussing a design and planning. The MDE grant was awarded in late December. That really kicked things off for us. We started fundraising.”

Coach Thayer said he “would like to grow the Farwell program,” with more team members and another mentor involved in the program. “To do that, we will need more tools.” Right now, he is hoping for a laptop to use for the design work. They are using a white board now and parts are spread all over a former storage room at Timberland High School where they hold their weekly meetings.

Another thing Thayer said is on his wish list is a CNC Mill, a machine used to cut material (metal, etc.). That will cost between $6,000 and $12,000 he said.

Meantime the Farwell High School students and Thayer are working hard to get ready for their first competition in March.

Thayer said, “This program lets young engineers try out different disciplines within the engineering field without spending four years in college to find out that they don’t enjoy the field they went into. It also inadvertently develops marketing and management skills. This is important because outside of this program, most students wouldn’t get to try a thing like designing, building and programming a robot.”

He continued, “I can’t say enough good things about the FIRST organization and everyone I have had contact with. James Winkler is the coach for the Clare team and has been very helpful with any questions I have had and has given us useful tips along the way.”

Sponsors for the new program include Buccillis of Clare and Farwell, Melling Products North, Bouchey Inc., Megan at Modern Reality, Wiley’s Bay Tool Inc., Palmer Hardware, Jims Body Shop, Rogers Athletic, Wauseon Machine, Stitches for Britches, Alro Steel and an anonymous donation on behalf of Clare Baptist Church.

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One Response to Farwell’s New “Robotnic” Team to Compete This Spring

  1. marvedobankz Reply

    January 28, 2020 at 12:04 pm

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