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Avon Roborioles

AHS robotics club encourages students in science and technology

Writer / Heather Chastain

One of the largest robotics clubs in the area resides at Avon High School. The Avon Roborioles, as they are called, is a competitive club that designs, programs, fabricates and controls robots.

For the past seven years, students have had an opportunity to work together in teams to build, create and compete. An extensive application is required to be part of the team. The group has grown to about 60 students and 20 mentors. The mentors are teachers, parents, technicians and engineers who work all over the city.

The robotics club gives these students a chance to solve problems within STEM. However, students say they are learning so much more than science and technology.

“This experience has given me the chance to work with people who think in a different way than I do.” says Stephanie Stegemann, a senior at Avon High School. “It’s been a great opportunity to be able to sit down and really talk about different ideas as a team. I think this experience will put me well above my peers.”

A three-year veteran of the program, Stegemann plans to go to Trine University in the fall to study mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering. Stegemann says she wants to work with the military and help make their Humvees and other equipment safer.

The student-led group is overseen by 2017 Teacher of the Year Chris Hill. Hill modestly credits his students for the honor, but principal Mathew Schokley is eager to give Hill more credit.

“Students with unique talents and interests in the STEM field are now able to find their niche and their home in a high school of 3,000 students,” Schokley says. “Even more than that, they are able to showcase their passion and pride at the local, state and national level, proudly representing our school community.  It IS cool to love math, science and technology.”

Hill says the Roborioles are like a lot of teams – they have students dedicated to specific areas of skill and interest. They have “pit crews’, a driver, an engineer and a designer.

One of the most exciting goals for the team this year was to utilize infrared vision to control their robot. Freshman Garett Ivie explained how he, along with the team, worked to create an infrared light to measure the robot’s distance from objects and how it computes the information.

“Being part of robotics is fun because I get to build a small component of a robot,” says sophomore Caleb Whitesell. “It’s fun seeing how the robot can go from one small part to the final design.”

Just days before the team competed in a district competition at Harrison High School in Lafayette, the team was at the school at 7 p.m. testing their robot to make sure it was ready for competition. Students were making adjustments, discussing ways to improve the robot and trying to resolve issues.

Stegemann said it’s not uncommon to spend many late nights at the school when you’re part of the Roborioles.

“I think one week I spent 54 hours at school, including my time in school and the time I put in after. I’m pretty sure I ate pizza for dinner three nights in a row,” she laughed.

Other students agreed it was many long hours, but none of them seemed to mind.

One mentor, Steve Blaske does not have a student on the team, but offers his time and mechanical talents to help them. Blaske works for United Technologies and is a veteran robotics competitor. He competed in FIRST Robotics growing up in Rochester, Michigan.

“I wanted to extend my experiences to the kids,” Blaske says. “It’s great to have this student-led group. The seniors are setting a great example to the younger students about how this group should work.”

Building the robot, as well as the competition fees, are expensive. The team runs on a budget of $20,000, so they rely on donations and sponsors. This year, the team had the support of United Technologies, Rolls Royce, Alarie, Allison Transmission, MPG, PPG, Sullivan’s Tires, Nucor Plate Mill and Steel Dynamics, Inc., among other private donors.

If you would like more information on the Roborioles, or would like to get involved, contact Hill at CMHill@avon-schools.org.

About Heather Chastain

Heather Chastain is an Emmy award-winning journalist and author of the children’s book “Caroline Girls.” Learn more at CarolineGirls.com.

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