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Junior High Robotics Makes National
Over the summer, the Junior High Robotics Team had the opportunity to compete in a robotics competition in Washington D.C. The team was one of twenty teams selected to compete out of the 160 teams worldwide. Not only did they have the chance to go to national competition, but they also won the Global Innovation Award for the State of Oklahoma's First Lego League Program. 




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Mayes County Robotics-Student Voice
Gabe Johnson

The Mayes County Robotics team is about to begin meeting and working, and it is open to students who want to participate. The program provides members with hands-on experience and useful life skills, such as “actually failing at a project and having to improve, change, and modify,” says Darryl MacKay, a mentor of the Mayes County team.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields are quickly becoming the most demanded careers in America. According to CNN Money, “STEM jobs are growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs.” These careers range from all kinds of industrial and commercial fields and are growing everyday. They are high-paying and hard to obtain without a logical mind, big work ethic, and most importantly—manual skill.

The Mayes County Robotics program provides just that. Students participating receive firsthand knowledge relating to electrical, mechanical, and computer concepts by working with experienced adult mentors who manage the program. Hosted at the OSUIT (Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology) in Pryor, students meet with mentors after school three to four nights a week to design and build a large-scale mechanical robot.

This machine will be used to compete in a game provided by the FIRST Robotics Competition kickoff. Students will have to work together to build and program a robot that can complete the functions required by the game in six weeks time. Then, they take their robot to local competitions and compete against other teams from different counties and states.

This program provides hands-on experience by essentially tossing students into the front seat of a project, giving them certain guidelines, and setting them free. The robot must meet certain dimensional restraints and use specific parts, but other than that, there are little to no limitations. Students participating have access to necessary parts and other resources with which they must build a robot from scratch. This portion of the Robotics process teaches students how to start projects from the beginning and overcome obstacles.

“It’s a very hands-on experience, and it is also very rewarding due to that,” says MacKay. “You also see application by being able to apply some of the skills you are learning in school to an actual situation and see results.”

Students do not only learn STEM skills within this program—they also learn business and life skills. The build season requires them to work well together and build off of each other’s ideas while the competition requires communication and cooperation. Creating a team incorporates reaching out to sponsors and other business related aspects, as well as designing T-shirts and promotional materials.

“Team building is a big one,” says MacKay on the many skills that participants can gain from this program.

The FIRST Robotics Competition is seen as a great learning opportunity, as there are many scholarships and career paths that can branch from it. And with the high demand for STEM skills, it is important that students invest in it early.

Overall, this program is a great learning experience as a whole and can lead students to discover interests and talents they never knew they had. As it works with one of the fastest growing fields in America, a local opportunity like this is hard to pass by. An interest in any form of applied technology, engineering, designing, or other STEM aspect is most likely covered within this program, and it is offered to students like you.

“Right now, we need every individual we can get. . . but I would love to see the program get to a point where we have almost too many kids,” says Austin Grant, a student at Pryor High School and a member of the team.

The build season begins on the first Saturday in January and the program will be in full bloom after that point.

“It is a commitment,” says Grant, “but it’s definitely worth it for all the experience you’ll get, and all the fun you’ll have.”