By Lonnie Huhman,

From robots to world class engineers to a team with many roles, Chelsea Robotics is building a lot of great things.

An open house for the robotics program was held at Chelsea High School on May 13, as a way to give those interested in joining a chance to learn and see more, and it was an opportunity for those already involved to show what it’s all about.

The different robotics teams demonstrated some of their robots at the May 13 open house.
photo by Lonnie Huhman

“It allows you to explore something you are passionate about,” said Marka Eberle, who is a coach for the Beach Middle School Robotics Club, in telling the crowd of attendees about the overall program.

In addition to the learning and hands-on experiences, she said the students do have a lot of fun.

The robotics program in Chelsea begins in kindergarten through third-grade with FIRST Lego League Jr. and then goes to fourth and fifth with FIRST Lego League then middle school with FIRST Tech Challenge and finally in high school with FIRST Robotics.

FIRST is a national and international robotics program that aims to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

It’s grown in popularity in Chelsea.

Colin Kovick, who is a freshman, joined the program in seventh-grade and he came back the next year for some simple reasons.

“It was fun and I made some good friends,” he said.

Sophomore Riley Thornburn has a similar sentiment about the team and she said it also helped her grow in confidence and put some of her learning into action. She said going into the team she wanted to take her interest in engineering and use what she’s learned in the classroom and apply it to some real world experiences.

“There really is, in many ways, a direct translation from the classroom to here,” she said.

Where she grew in confidence was learning about things she didn’t know much about, including the building part of the team. She said with a laugh she didn’t know what soldering or needle nose pliers were, but now she does.

That’s another thing about the program, the teams, especially the middle and high school teams, have many roles and places where students can shine, grow and learn.

Robotics booster, parent and coach Steve Eberle said there are the core details around robotics, but there’s also a range of areas the program and its competitions cover, from business skills, public speaking, graphic design, social media, working with your hands, website design to App design.

These are just a few.

“This is about more than just robotics,” said Kirk Findlay, the high school coach.

As a team member, Colin said he joined out of interest in building the robot, but he grew to also love the media side of things. He now does such things as social media, video production and blogging for the team.

Riley helps with the electrical side of things, such as making sure the control system and wiring all work and are organized.

In the end, both said all of the parts of the team come together to make a cohesive unit. Each robotics team member, from the students to coaches, emphasized that much of what they do is refined through trial and error, but they said this is the good part because it helps everyone grow and build together.

“The best part is that we are working as a team,” Colin said. “You learn a lot about teamwork.”

Another part of the overall goal is to help the students realize their potential through community outreach and mentoring. Many of the high school team members go onto work with younger students, including coaching them and advising them on their own robot builds.

Each grade level is opening up for registration and they are looking for more help and talent. They said their programs are open to all. The program is also looking for help from parents and other community members, who are important factors in helping the program grow and continue.

“We need your help to make this work,” Marka Eberle said.

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