Seven high schools here in the Valley have a robotics team, with hundreds of kids already competing. And they have become quite successful, thanks to sponsors like General Motors. They call it, sport for the mind.
“In sports, it’s really hard for students athletes, very few, a very small percentage of them end up, quote turning pro and making it big. We like to say in FIRST Robotics that everybody has a chance to turn pro, to get excited about science, technology, engineering, and math.” says Travis Hoffman, a mentor for Warren Harding’s Delphi E.L.I.T.E. team.
Team leader Greg Christman has been running the program for 19 years, “I mean it’s just incredible. If you buy into what we do, and you go to one of our events, It is as exciting as a high school basketball game, a high school football game, baseball game, and all of the sports. The kids get wrapped up in it. We’re on the field competing, we want to win. We’ve learned what there is to learn in this classroom, in the shops, and on the practice field, but when we go to compete, we’re there to win.”
Warren Harding wins a lot. Their Delphi E.L.I.T.E. team won back to back state titles in 2013 and 14 and were crowed National Champs back in 1999. But winning takes commitment. Students are required to put in 25 hours of work during the 6 week build period, but some end up spending more than 100 hours in the shop. Victoria Woods has spent three years with the program after her mom forced her to sign up as a freshman.
“And I thought it was going to be really weird, and it was going to be all these crazy nerds and all this stuff, but since then, it has never ceased to be a waste of time, it’s been really rewarding, it’s probably the best thing i’ve done with my life in high school.”, says Warren Harding junior Victoria Woods.
Robotics is expensive business. The average team can spend more than 20 thousand dollars in entry fees, parts, and travel, which makes sponsorship a must. General Motors has a vested interest in the future of these young engineers, and will become the primary sponsor of the Northeast Ohio FIRST Robotics Alliance.
Hoffman added, “The GM Foundation is sponsoring neofra with a grant of a significant amount of support and what will happen is that money will go to all 7 teams to support their programs and make it easier to achieve the educational goals and it’s just really awesome that they would step up. FIRST was designed after sporting events, so this is the sport that companies love to invest in, and the end goal is again, to inspire students and yes, we’ve seen many across all of our teams, go through the team programs, graduate, go to college, intern with the companies that sponsor the teams. Sometimes the companies will provide scholarships to help them attend school, so it is a closed loop.”