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STEM & Robotics Comes to South Deschutes County

By Mike Way and Ken Mulenex, La Pine STEM Group

Vince Jones (junior at La Pine High) states “I really enjoy this (building and coding robots), it makes school productive and fun.”
These are the type robots that the two teams have had to build for FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) competitions sponsored by “ORTOP” and “FIRST. FTC” which involves students from the 6th to the 12th grades. They build their Robots to meet a challenge and standards that is released annually & required world-wide.

“It’s fun, I am learning a lot. There are enough students that we NEED more equipment,” said Scott Bozich, La Pine High Science teacher.

He’s talking about a new program at La Pine High, “Robotics”. Through members of The La Pine STEM Group, the school has initiated two new programs. The STEM group, a 501-c3 non-profit group, fosters STEM activities in the La Pine area, has supported with equipment, coaches and mentors the FIRST robotics programs and competitions.

There are two rookie teams from south Deschutes County schools, Three Rivers Middle (robOtters), and La Pine High school (roboHawks), this season in the FTC competitions sponsored by ORTOP and FIRST. FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) which involves students from the 6th to the 12th grades. They build their Robots to meet a challenge and standards that is released & required world-wide. 13 teams compete in the Central Oregon league. The schools are from Culver, Redmond, Bend, Sunriver and La Pine. This is an outstanding accomplishment for Sunriver & La Pine. Just think, in three years with The La Pine STEM Group, its board and mentors, and the recognition of the South County schools as to the value of a “STEM Focus” our STEM Robotics teams have leaped into the forefront of  Central Oregon STEM Robotic

Vince Jones (junior at La Pine High) states “I really enjoy this (building and coding robots), it makes school productive and fun.”  The team, led by Vince and Cole Hanson, finished as league finalists with the team from Three Rivers. Both teams advance to a “Super Qualifier event” at Hillsboro, Oregon on February 7th, attempting to advance again to a state-wide event later in the month.

The Three Rivers Middle School program was also successful at the district meet, scoring as a league finalist. The Three Rivers program is coached by Michelle Johnson and Sherry Brooke, teachers in the middle school program. The ladies are also rookies with FTC robotics and have worked side by side with their five team members. The team met two afternoons a week from September to December, traveling to 4 meets and the league event.

They arranged for buses, chaperoned and gave up a lot time for the students. Jim Fister, resident of Sunriver, spent time teaching the students to plan and program the robot. Jim stated, “it would be nice to get some support in South (Deschutes) County for robotics moving forward”.

Michelle said about the league meet, “This is so exciting, I can’t wait to do it again next year”. The next event for Three Rivers’ team and La Pine High’s team will be at Hillsboro, Oregon. There they will compete against 36 other Oregon FTC teams and hope to advance once more.

Both teams expressed thanks to ORTOP and Oregon Department of Education for their help with funding their way into the competitions. But, the also noted that the traveling to the events is expensive and additional help is always appreciated.

“Doc” Mike Way, stated “These events are great for advancing STEM interests, learning about problem solving, and meeting challenges in engineering and design”. A La Pine STEM group board member, he helped to start programs at Rosland, Three Rivers and La Pine High. He continued, “Yes, they are expensive and time-consuming programs and  we can always use help from mentors, team leaders, and financial support for all of our STEM teams”.

“I encourage you to accept the challenge, help our students and program leaders  with the resources they need to succeed”. For information call 541-306-0159 or email aazinfo@ lapinestemgroup.org.


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