The Marshalltown High School robotics team known as the “Botcats” is entering its third year of existence at the school.
Co-coaches and MHS teachers Stephen Frese and Mike Lazere held an informational meeting on September 1 for prospective team members and 20 MHS students attended.
“I’m really excited for you to be part of this,” Frese told the students.
The robotics team will build a robot and program it to do certain functions in competitions against other schools November through January.
More than just robots
Lazere said the students learn so much more than building and programming a robot as part of the team. They learn business and interpersonal skills as they will talk to local groups to raise money and they will also build a website and learn how to promote the group on social media.
“There’s a lot of different ways people can participate,” Lazere said.
Frese said this type of league is the “big brother” of the Lego League that many of the students compete in when they are younger. It also gives them experience should they choose to go into the STEM field and its growing number of jobs in the nation.
“There are several facets to STEM careers that students are exposed to and work on throughout the competition season,” Frese said. “For instance, the engineering process that we go through as we design, build, program and compete with our robot contains several unique pieces.”
Building communication skills
Frese said students are able to build on their communication skills as they work together as a team.
“I have really enjoyed seeing students getting out of their comfort zone and be required to communicate what they are working on with others,” Frese said. “Sometimes this can be seen in refinement of communication skills and for others it’s like opening the communication floodgates.”
Frese is a science teacher at MHS while Lazere teaches engineering as part of Project Lead the Way at the school.
MHS hosted a robotics tournament last school year at the Roundhouse and Frese said he hopes to have another tournament at the gym this season.
The team started as part of a STEM Scale-Up grant in 2014-15 from the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. That grant was awarded again for year two but not this year, so the group will be relying on donations and sponsorships from community groups and businesses as it moves forward.