Local robotics team seeks funding for competitions

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published January 25, 2018

HARRISON TOWNSHIP/CLINTON TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — L’Anse Creuse FIRST Robotics Team 453, Rockem Sockem Robotics, is gearing up for the spring competition season and is looking for a few good supporters.

The team, which first formed in 2000, is comprised of high school students who devote their evenings, weekends and even days throughout the summer months to discuss and form ideas in an effort to get their district’s name known across the globe.

Each year they compete in district, state and international events that attract hundreds of thousands of students from all over the world. But doing so does come with a price.

Rockem Sockem is a privately funded team that any student can get involved in. However, each year the team and its mentors must seek out both corporate and private sponsors to help the team monetarily support activities, as well as parts needed to design and build their robot, training, and to be involved in competitions, which include travel and lodging.

Ian Heritier, a teacher at L’Anse Creuse High School and the lead mentor of the robotics team, said parts and tools are necessities in getting a robot moving.

“And sometimes things break,” he said. “All that stuff adds up.”

Which is why a GoFundMe page was recently supported and launched by team parents including Gretchen Bates, whose son Logan is this year’s team captain.

“During each FIRST season, all FIRST teams, including the Rockem Sockem Robotics team, is given a new challenge and is tasked with engineering a solution by building a complete robot from scratch and then competing in multiple competitions against other high school teams,” Bates said. “I was amazed at how quickly the students process the game requirements, digest the rules, generate original ideas, create plans and move ahead toward (the) design of their robot.”

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international organization that promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in academics. The season began earlier this month.

“I am impressed by how hard and tirelessly these high school students work with mentors, businesses and educators within the community to gain relevant, hands-on experience in problem solving, engineering and computer programming in order to design, implement and execute a competitive robot plan,” Bates said.

This year’s team is made up of just over 30 students who meet at the Pankow Center.

Last season, the Rockem Sockem Robotics team came in 11th in the district competition and was a Leader Team in the quarterfinals. This meant they were able to choose partners and compete in the quarterfinals. The team managed to accomplish all this with just over $10,000 in funding, while many of the finalist teams had budgets ranging from $40,000 to $60,000, according to Bates.

Team 453’s goal is to raise $40,000 for the 2018 spring competition season.

The district competition at Center Line High School is set for March 8-10, and the FIRST Robotics Global Championship, which is split into two events, will be held April 25-28 at Cobo Center in Detroit and April 18-21 in Houston.

Logan Bates, a sophomore at L’Anse Creuse High School, became involved in FIRST Robotics last school year because he was intrigued by the idea of formulating ideas, designing and ultimately constructing something as a group.

“Being involved in robotics helps with critical thinking and working as a group. I like the social aspect of it, too,” he said. “I have met so many people being involved in the team that I probably never would have had the chance to meet or talk to, and there is such a broad range of people in it. Robotics is for everyone. It’s like one big family.”

Robots tend to be as tall as 7 feet and can weigh hundreds of pounds.

Logan Bates said the best thing about being in robotics is the “chaos” involved in the competitions.

“When everyone is running around and doing their thing, or we’re dealing with different scenarios or tackling a problem,” he said. “I love all of that out-of-the-box thinking.”

Heritier said that during the competitions, students cheer each other on, dance on the sidelines and just “go crazy” with excitement.

“The kids are the reason why I love doing this so much,” he said.

To donate, go to the Rockem Sockem GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/4ysht8g. Donations can also be made by mail with checks made out to “L’Anse Creuse Public Schools — Rockem Sockem Robotics” and mailed to FRC Team 453, Pankow Center, 24600 F.V. Pankow Blvd., Clinton Township, MI 48036. More information can also be found on the team’s website at rockemsockemrobotics.com and on Facebook.