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Arlington High School robotics team shows off skills to Rotary

From left, Arlington High School Robotics Club Faculty Mentor Jim Bassett looks on as Club President Kori Bowns shows off the soccer-playing machine she and her teammates built this year to the Arlington Rotary Club on Nov. 18. - Kirk Boxleitner
From left, Arlington High School Robotics Club Faculty Mentor Jim Bassett looks on as Club President Kori Bowns shows off the soccer-playing machine she and her teammates built this year to the Arlington Rotary Club on Nov. 18.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — The Arlington High School Robotics Club gave members of the Arlington Rotary Club a hands-on demonstration of the skills they’ve developed when the students brought this year’s competition robot to the Nov. 18 noon Rotary meeting at the Gleneagle Golf Course.

AHS Robotics Club President Kori Bowns, PR Manager Dan Radion and Business Manager Kelsy Faux were joined by their faculty mentor, Jim Bassett, as they explained that it costs approximately $10,000 each year for them to participate in the annual FIRST Robotics Competition at the Qwest Field Event Center.

“January is our kickoff, because that’s when our challenge for the year is announced,” Faux said. “It’s never the same challenge twice. Our build season takes up the next six weeks, during which we design, build and test our robot before it’s packed up and shipped off to the competition, which is the next time we’ll see it again.”

Registration for the competition costs $5,000 on its own, with much of that fee offsetting the cost of reserving the Qwest Field Event Center for close to a hundred high school robotics teams for three days. Although community groups such as Rotary and Kiwanis, as well as businesses such as Boeing, have helped the Robotics Club pay many of its expenses, Bowns told Rotarians that she and her teammates hope to recruit more sponsors and foster more partnerships between the school and the community.

“We’re always trying to find a more efficient building process, since we have to start designing the robot right away once the challenge is announced,” Radion said. “We’re also trying to win awards for our website and CAD design.”

The trio of students touted the academic and career benefits of participating in the Robotics Club, with Faux citing statistics showing that such extracurriculars correlate with increased graduation rates from colleges, universities and other post-secondary educational institutions, while Radion attested to how his work with robotics has developed his organizational and communication skills.

“It increases your self-confidence,” said Bowns, a senior who’s been with the AHS Robotics Club for two of its three years in existence. “You get to see gracious professionalism between competitors. I call it ‘cooperition,’ because teams will share their parts and their expertise even when they’re playing against each other.”

Radion pointed out that the AHS Robotics Club is no longer eligible for many of the grants reserved for more fledgling teams, and as such, is more dependent on community support than ever before. Bowns then allowed the Rotarians in attendance to get a feel for what they were being asked to help support, as a few of them stepped up to take hold of the joystick controls for the soccer-playing machine that the students had built for this year’s competition.

“We can always use more volunteers to help us out, too,” Bassett said.

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