Jenison Robotics Recap

13879193_518502558354595_1452843078217319306_nThe Jenison High School gyms were bursting at the seams on Saturday, January 12. Although there were no basketballs bouncing or wrestling mats on the ground, the energy was undeniable as the Jenison Robotics team proudly played host to 80 teams from around the area for a Vex Robot Competition (VRC). The January Jenison Tournament wraps up the regular competition schedule for this year.

Since starting 5 years ago, the growth of the Jenison robotics program has been outstanding and we’re glad to see another successful season. The students are forging lasting friendships, and growing in confidence as they work as teammates and persevere through adversity. Together, the teams have taken home 25 awards, including an Innovate Award, multiple Design Awards, Excellence Awards, and four tournament champions.

The Jenison Robotics program is open to students in grades 4-12. And while they are busy with fun, hands-on experiments – they are really putting into practice complex concepts, like the trade off between speed and power, how friction coefficients can affect performance, or learning how to design and utilize systems with compound gearing. Students are clearly learning and practicing helpful skills they can take with them into their future. Adam Timmer, president of the Jenison Robotics Board of Directors, and the many parent volunteers, have a goal for the students and adult volunteers that join the program. They work together to allow the student to join where they are at. The robotics arena is a great place for them practice their talents and skills, and also learn new ones. Some of the robotics students have even been 3D modeling parts and then 3D printing those parts. Jenison Robotics is currently fundraising to provide the students access to a 3D printer.

This year, there are 18 elementary teams, participating in the VEX IQ program. Among these teams, they have won 16 awards so far this season and we’re proud to see 6 elementary teams qualify for the State Championship next month. The Jr. High and High School teams have had breakout success this season. Monroe Community College is hosting Michigan’s Middle School State VRC Championship in March and five of the nine Jenison Junior High teams have earned their way there. The seven Jenison High School robotics teams have worked hard throughout the year and have one team currently headed to the state championship competition at Michigan State University.

It will be a tough field of competing teams, but the Jension teams headed to the state championships have their sights set on earning an invitation to the VEX Robotics World Championship (held in Louisville, Kentucky this spring).

As an educator, it intrigues me and gives me a such pride to watch all the intricacies of this volunteer/mentor-run program. By its nature, the study of competitive robotics not only encompasses all four pillars of STEM education, but also encourages important life skills like teamwork, communication, and project-based organization.

I just know that the future of America is in great hands with these budding engineers. Stay tuned to the Jenison Robotics website or the Jenison Robotics Facebook page to follow their progress as they wrap up their season. Good Luck Wildcats!!

Meet Jenison Robotics Junior High team 457A:

49819278_939655749572605_7641667329859780608_o

They have won two tournaments, the “Innovate Award” at a third event, and with a tournament win they were the first Jenison team to qualify for the State Championship this 2018-19 season. Team members, Devon, Cora, Ethan and Peyton have pretty diverse interests with band, orchestra, football, and playing guitar. When it comes to robotics, they come together to create a solid team that gets the job done. Devon strives to keep the team improving continually. Cora keeps the team’s engineering notebook on track. Ethan programs the robot to make sure the “hunk of metal” they built is a smart hunk of metal. Besides driving the robot, Peyton scouts the competition and helps develop strategy for the team.

More exciting JPS Robotics and STEM news:

The Mechanics of Jenison Robotics – 2016 Blog Post

Jenison Receives Portion of State Grant for Robotics

Jenison High Schoolers Start “GIRLS IN STEM” Club

 

 

Pinewood Design Team Takes Home the Gold!

Every year the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District [OAISD] hosts a project for students in Ottawa County called futureprep’d as a way to connect students with some of the world class companies that call West Michigan their home. Sarah Magro, Intervention teacher at Pinewood, applied for the program and was teamed with a teacher in the Grand Haven School District. Each teacher selected three fifth graders to make up the team from Ottawa County to take on the Michigan Design Challenge.

Sponsored by the Michigan Design Council, the Michigan Design Challenge is a statewide competition  for educators to work with students to solve an existing problem. Students accomplished this challenge by using Project-Based Learning which is to start with a problem and find the solution through the creative sequence [seen in the photo above].

The challenge this year was to create a device or object to help make MI winters more safe or more fun. But as Ms Magro and her fellow teacher, TJ Klumpel, quickly learned, students have very different ideas for making winter more safe and fun than adults!

The team created a series of Smart Sleds which are built by the customer through a kit of their choosing – based on their interests. For example, they created a racing sled for the daredevil, a safety kit with a helmet and bumper pads for the cautious consumer, and even a “Lazy Joe” kit with a towing feature for those of us who prefer to sled less proactively.  What the students created was a solution to both problems – winter would be BOTH more fun and ore safe!

The team’s ideas were submitted to the Michigan Design Challenge in June as well as presented to a crowd of parents and family members at the OAISD for futureprep’d. Then, during Professional Development week in August, Ms Magro got the news that the Ottawa Country team had been selected for the Top 3 statewide in their age bracket! At that point, the team was paired with Stryker to brainstorm their ideas with staff from their industrial design division. The team drew up the kids ideas and the students were also exposed to important careers that are a little outside the box. Every team in Top 3 worked with a different company who, with help from the students, created posters with with their ideas and these posters were brought to the University of Michigan last week for the awards ceremony.

After the judges assessed all the Top 3 entries, Jenison and Grand Haven won the GOLD!

Ms Magro is not only proud of their win, but their hard work along the way as well. “It’s very cool that kids get to work through the creative sequence alongside kids from a another school, another teacher you don’t know, learning about collaboration, teamwork, and finding a solution to a problem – these are all important skills for kids to learn.”

Students take full ownership of the project, receiving only consultation and support from their teachers. Ms Magro is also excited that her students were able to see that there are careers out there that aren’t “cookie cutter” and, for the kid who may have a hard time finding their place, they learn in this process that they will have options.

“I’m very proud of the students for stepping outside the box. We had our own vision of how to make Michigan winters safer, but from a kids perspective, it’s so different. What they came up with was above and beyond what TJ and I thought of. Seeing what students are capable of and the higher level thinking that they’re capable of is incredible.”

Congratulations to the entire Ottawa County team, but especially to our Pinewood Champions: Luke Cousino, Selena Keller, and Meredith Bolhuis! We’re so proud of you and your accomplishments!

*Photo courtesy of the GH Tribune

High School Girls Champion STEM for Elementary Students!

Pinewood

Peyton Benac with a Pinewood STEM student!

In the fall of 2014 Chemistry teacher Alice Putti had good reason to be impressed. She had been approached by two of her former students, sophomores at the time, who wanted to start a club for high school girls to visit Jenison Elementary schools and do STEM lessons. [STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics]

Peyton Benac and Alex Stockholm wanted to take their interest and passion in STEM education to younger girls but they knew they’d need faculty support and financial assistance to do it. But their goal to inspire and encourage students who like the STEM subjects motivated them to move forward and thanks to a grant from the Jenison Education Foundation they were able to launch their group!

They began meeting with other interested high school girls to discuss possible lessons and experiments and getting their hands dirty as they made prototypes. “We tried to get activities from all the STEM fields like math puzzles and an engineering challenge.” says Peyton.  The group visited each elementary school once this fall and 4 – 6 high school students lead the groups of younger students which has varied from 10 – 30 girls!  When one young student was asked her favorite part of STEM she quickly replied “math” but after doing an experiment with conductive play-doh she said, “I like science too.”

Peyton has been involved with Junior High and High School Science Olympiad and she would like to pursue a career in science education. Speaking of her experience on the Science Olympiad team, “I remember being a seventh grade girl and wishing there were role models. The problem isn’t that girls are less interested or less talented but they try it once and it’s weird, none of their friends are there, it’s uncomfortable, there’s no role models. So we wanted to create a program that would open that door for them and make it seem a little less scary.”

Sandy Hill2

Sandy Hill Girls in STEM!

In preparation for their presentations the team watched “a lot of TED Talks from women who have succeeded in STEM fields talking about what they went through when they were younger. We read parts of “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg talking about finding success in male dominated fields  and I think that gave us the background to want to do this with the elementary girls. We thought that we could provide that role model and tell them that we passionately love STEM and we think you should too…”  Ultimately, the group would love to see more female students stick it out in Science Olympiad, Robotics , AP Computer Science, AP Calculus or AP Stats.

Mrs Putti says that “from the beginning I was incredibly impressed when they came to me with this idea, to have the vision and goals they had and I thought, not only do I want to be supportive of you because you’re my students, but your goals are incredibly mature goals.”  In Jenison High School there are “more women taking life science classes such as Earth science and biology rather than physics or chemistry. There are less women in math and computer science than there are in sciences.”  With the new focus on STEM education teachers are hopeful that these numbers will change.  “I think the fact that they are being introduced to it early that is important. When we talk to girls at our STEM club meetings there are a lot of them that are excited about STEM but I would guess that at that level  those kids would have been excited about those subjects anyway. Our goal is to keep them excited.”

Peyton wants to encourage parents and other adults invested in girls’ lives to be thoughtful in how they are encouraged. “I think that everyone should be conscious of the passion that these young girls have for STEM and especially if they have young daughters to see that as kind of the best thing.”

If you’d like to encourage an elementary girl to attend the next STEM meeting please check out this flyer for the details and where to sign up!

Or if you’d like to find out how you can contribute to continuing the work of the Girls STEM Club in Jenison next year please contact Alice Putti:  aputti@jpsonline.org for information on their forthcoming Go Fund Me account!

Thank you to Alex, Peyton and Mrs Putti for being the role models our young girls need! We are so grateful that you pursued your goals and are investing in our future STEM leaders!

Pinewood3

Pinewood Girls try to crack the code with a little encouragement from their high school mentor!

Rosewood2

Rosewood Girls in STEM hard at work!

Pinewood2

Pinewood girls conquer the engineering challenge!