Hillman to rebuild FIRST robotics club

HILLMAN — After a break, Hillman Junior/Senior High School is working on building a new FIRST robotics team for students. Students are working on rebuilding a program after losing its mentor a couple years ago and not being able to find a new mentor until this year.

Teacher Jesse Pattison took the role as mentor for the program and is helping the students get the program started.

“The one thing that we are going to focus on this year is corporate sponsorships,” Pattison said. “We’re going to be sending out sponsorship letters in the near future to local businesses and organizations.”

Pattison said a big component of FIRST robotics is making connections with industry and the schools.

“One way of doing that is providing sponsorship and that’s one component of that connection,” he said. “Another component of it is that it’s not just building robots, it’s having students do the work and ask businesses for sponsorship.”

Senior Cheyenne Gardner said students will have to make a presentation to businesses. The program is in the process of receiving a grant from the State of Michigan that will provide startup money. Fundraising is going to be a big part to get the program.

“Fundraising for the first few years will be tough, but we have gotten a commitment from our school board for a portion of the funds along with a grant from the State of Michigan,” senior Wyatt Libby said. “Between those two we should be very close to having most of what we need.”

Recruiting students is going to be the next step to build the team. Gardner said she will make posters to hang around the school.

“I’ll be going around to the science classrooms because most of the students aren’t familiar with robotics,” Pattison said. “They haven’t had it here for a while so students don’t know what this program is.”

There is no minimum on how many students can be in a robotics program, but Pattison said they are hoping for about 12 to 15 students to start. Once the high school robotics program is established, they will start talking to students grades six through eight about joining.

The robotics season begins in January with the kickoff event.

“Everyone has the base materials and then from there the grant money is used to purchase whatever materials we are going to use to accomplish the objective for the robot,” Pattison said.

Pattison said this season is going to be a learning year and to start a program that can be built for future years.

“This program is something that is great for students because it gives them technical skills that are absolutely necessary in today’s job market,” he said. “Right now, we need trained technical workers that they don’t necessarily need a college degree for.”

Libby said the program is back and as strong as ever.

“With community support and a good group of students, this should be a great program for the students and for the area,” he said. “I believe we can make it a great and sustainable program for our school.”

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.