Front Row – Dedicated Robotics
Writer / Leigh Lawson
Photographer / Jim Eichelman
The Center Grove High School’s robotic team, Red Alert, is a team unlike any other team within the school walls. The hours of preparation, especially when building the robot for competition, mirrors a full-time job, in addition to the school day. Their successes at state and world competitions have accumulated in their 10 years. The students are not only involved with the engineering and building of the robots but in areas such as business, writing and artistic design that promote their team. Few clubs have the ability of shaping student lives and paving career paths like Red Alert.
Sharon Baxter was among the first few parents in the developing days of Red Alert. While her son Charlie has since graduated, Sharon continues volunteering for her team. Her dedication to the team is one example of where volunteering extends well past expectations. Beyond the team parents, 20 mentors give many hours to this team. There are volunteers ranging from a grandfather to returning students that have continued their passion, sparked in Red Alert.
Nathan Coulombe is the lead mentor for Red Alert. He acts as the school liaison for the team because Red Alert does not currently have a teacher in a volunteer leadership role. Coulombe is an engineer for Cummins and gives up to 40 hours a week to the team during the time when then robot is being built. Throughout the entire year, he gives anywhere from 10-40 hours per week. Unlike team coaches, Coulombe does not receive any type of compensation. His dedication is exemplified by his hours donated.
The dedication of Red Alert parents and volunteers is unparalleled among other CGHS parental groups. It is born out of a love for their kids and seeing the kids find a passion. There is much pride in watching all of the team members find their place within the team and truly blossom. They are dedicated because of necessity as well. Red Alert does not receive the funding given to the sports teams. The parents help the team by seeking grants, corporate sponsors and through fundraising events.
Behind all of these successes and opportunities is the guidance of the mentors and parents. They have encouraged the team to meet the needs of others with outreach community service. Students mentor the elementary school’s Lego leagues, give presentations and make blankets for first responders to give to children. The team published a children’s book on workshop safety illustrated by teammate Amber Turner. The Indianapolis Children’s Museum recently invited the team to participate in an upcoming robotics attraction.
The future holds promise for the team. CGHS has found a new home for them in the fall of 2015. Their new area, called the STEM building, is where they can work on their projects, especially building the competition robot. The new space, also slated for expanded CGHS curriculum addition in the fall, will focus on science, technology, engineering and math. The new space, made possible through the Red Alert parent group’s work with the school administration and board of trustees, brings great promise to the team.
The Red Alert mentors and parents work tirelessly out of necessity, but it is not all business. They plan other aspects that add to the busy build and competition seasons. Besides providing meals for the students during the long Saturdays and Sundays of preparing and building the robot, the parents organize tailgating meals for competitions. They help order spirit wear for the team, though the team shows pride with more gusto through dying their hair some eye-catching colors. Whatever it is that the parents and mentors do for their team, the level of dedication exceeds all others. The support that Red Alert receives is significant, which lends to their success.