By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – The JV TorqueNado robotics team at Boyd Arthurs Middle School is headed for a state level competition, an outstanding achievement for the team, which just formed several months ago.
The team will compete at the 2022 Michigan State Championship-SE on Dec. 9 and 10 at Macomb Community College in Warren.
The students team members, all in their rookie season, are Greyson Black, Taryn Boller, Collin Brightman, Dominic Brightman, Delaney Cannon, Aaron Clark, Emma Lee Cowan, Lily Hartnett, Adeline Kosiorek, Steven Mescher, David Newbecker, Eric Schmittou, Brady Tepper, Jaxon Watterson, Elliott Wheeler and Zoey Ann Zavala.
The adult volunteers are Head Coach Jennifer Griffiths, mentor Michel Stapula, Mechanical Coach Chris Rosen, Programming Coach Josh Wheeler, Business Coach Sheryl Boller and mentor David Kaiser.
Rosen said he reached out to Boyd Arthurs Principal Debbie Rhoades to form a new robotics team in April when he was considering transferring his two sons to the Trenton Public Schools system and noticed there wasn’t a robotics program at the middle school.
After becoming aware of the Trenton High School robotics team winning the state championship through local media, he said he reached out to Katherine Nelson, the head coach for the High School TorqueNados FIRST Robotics Team to garner support to start a new robotics team at the middle school.
Rosen said he then met with Griffiths, one of the high school team robotics coaches, with Supt. Douglas Metzer and some of the mentors to discuss how they could help start a middle school team.
Sheryl Boller said students at the middle school were eager to form a robotics team after the high school team, the Trenton TorqueNados FIRST Robotics Club 5090, won the 2022 state championship.
She said her daughter, student and team member Taryn Boller, researched the effects of COVID-19 on middle school students to help convince the administration that involvement in the program could have a positive impact on the participants’ mental health and social skills.
Rhoades approved the formation of a middle school FIRST Robotics team, along with a yearbook club.
Both clubs received financial support from Girl Scout Troop 76277, whose members sold cookies to help fund the startups, earning their Silver Award along the way.
The robotics club used its money to purchase robot parts and a tool cart, while the yearbook club received four digital cameras.
The JV TorqueNados competed in its first competition Nov. 19 at Temperance Bedford High School.
“Despite having the claw extension on the robot break off in their second qualifying match, the team finished in seventh place overall out of 36 teams and was selected to compete in the semifinals with two other teams in an alliance,” Sheryl Boller said. “The alliance won the semifinal round and finished in second place in the finals.”
She said all of their students received medals and the team received its first trophy for its second place finish.
Griffiths said the students have learned a lot in a few short months.
“They’ve worked hard and have ideas to improve their robot after attending the qualifying event,” she said. “The coaching staff have noticed the additional enthusiasm, interest and drive as they work to improve their autonomous programming and reinforce the lift.”
Griffiths said the team has worked to improve the claw design the team had to replace on the fly after it broke during a qualifying match.
“The students are all very excited to be going to the state competition and we can’t wait to see how well they’ll do,” she said.
Sheryl Boller said the middle school robotics team does not receive any funds from the school district. In addition to the money raised by Girl Scout Troop 76277, it has benefited from sponsorships from General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Thrivent Financial Services, the DEKA Foundation, Trenton High School FIRST Robotics Club 5090, E.W. Smith Insurance Agency and Safe Spot Storage, along with donations from parents, coaches and mentors.
The team is holding a wreath raffle to raise money for the state championship entry fees and for additional robotic parts.
Those wishing to help the team financially may send a check, payable to “TPS Robotics,” and mail it to the JV TorqueNados, c/o Trenton High School, 2601 Charlton Road, Trenton MI, 48183. For more information, call 734-674-0876 or email [email protected].