High School Robotics Program. Missoula County students are having fun learning about physics and electronics through a high school robotics program. In Montana, the Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) expanded an after-school robotics program at Hellgate High School into a districtwide offering that features participation from four of the county's five high schools.
The program has been moved to Sentinel High School, which has more spacious shop class areas within its walls. Close to 30 students are members of the program, which aims to grant them expertise in circuitry construction, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and programming through the enjoyable task of robot building.
Read More about the Robotics Program in the News
The students who are taking part in the MCPS robot program are planning to compete in the regional leg of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), which takes place in February 2012. The competition is organized by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a group that is dedicated to inspiring high school aged youth to pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology.
The FRC is designed to give high school students a sense of how engineers and researchers operate as a team when they work together on a major project. Each team competing in the FRC is faced with a challenge in the form of a problem to solve, using robots that the team must built out of a FIRST-provided kit of parts, while keeping in mind a specified set of rules.
The FRC has been called a “varsity sport of the mind” for the way that it encourages the development of teamwork, professionalism, determination, and confidence, even as it nurtures the spirit of ‘friendly competitiveness’.
The MCPS kids have only six weeks starting in January to build and program the robots that will perform in the competition. A reporter from The Missoulian recently visited Sentinel High School to see how the students are doing.
The scene at the shop tables was one of semi-organized chaos as head coach Chris Jacaruso mentored the high school kids as they welded metal parts, assembled circuit boards, ran voltage regulators, tested complex components, and studied robotics programming.
The intensity of effort on display is sure to please Matt Clausen, the official MCPS liaison and the district's newly appointed director of creativity, innovation, and technology education. It is Clausen's hope that the MCPS high school robotics program will usher in a new model of education that promotes a more project-based approach to learning.