Rachael Spillard

I have been teaching biology and chemistry at Washington for 11 years, and have been coaching robotics since we started the team in 2014. It is incredible to see how much the team has grown in less than 5 years. We started the team with a small group of extremely motivated students and some shared space in the basement. Thanks to our supportive school community and some generous financial contributions, we have been able to grow the team into what we are today. What continues to draw me to robotics is that it is so unlike other kinds of student activities. Our students have real responsibility over the project and the team -- they design and build things using professional tools and equipment, apply programming skills, secure and manage funds, and reach out to other teams in the area to support the community as a whole. While as a coach I facilitate this process, the work itself really comes from them. Long-term goals for the team are obviously to continue to grow and improve. Our performance at competition has improved consistently from one year to the next, and I would love to see that trend continue (here’s to more playoff appearances in the future!). I would love to see our team expand its community outreach, helping FTC/FLL teams in the area and continuing to support the STEM community here at Washington. In my spare time, I like to read, cook, travel (and try all kinds of new foods!), and do crafting projects like quilting and refinishing furniture.

John Hajel

I have been teaching math and computer science at Washington since 2012. When Stephanie approached me about coaching robotics, I couldn’t wait to get started. Having worked on engineering projects in my professional life, I knew how complex and involved they can be. You need people to build and program, but you also need effective project management, networking and outreach with other groups, and the financial security to build a program over time. I love working on these kinds of projects -- giving students real-life experience and working through engineering problems as a team. I hope that the experiences students have in robotics extend to other areas of their lives -- problem solving, cooperation, and innovation. My goals for the team are to continue to grow and improve, to expand our mechanical and programming capabilities, and obviously, to eventually rename the team to the Washington High School Michigan Wolverines. In my free time, I like planning for the next year of robotics (seriously!), but I also enjoy traveling, gaming, and watching sports (Go Blue!).