Eagle Elite robotics team rolls again

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

The Eagle Elite Robotics Team is back, meeting and competing after a three-year pause. The revival is attributed to enthusiastic students, committed mentors, community and individual sponsors, and the tenacity of lead Coach Karin Lynch.

As the 2022 school year opened without a current coach and plan, Lynch realized students would again miss the opportunity to be part of a team. “This was not acceptable to me,” said Lynch. “I know firsthand how valuable the robotics team was to students and mentors.” Lynch said the skills gained through robotics—team building, design, fabrication, programming—are “all skills that our future engineering and technology students need. This is STEM in action.”

Lynch’s older son, Keegan, had joined the Strykeforce Robotics team, competing from 2011-2014. Her youngest son, Jared, also became part of the team, competing from 2014-2017.

That team was a winner. “In 2017, Strykeforce won the world championship, and I was there to see my son’s team win,” Lynch said.

The robotics team continued on for a few more years, but after a three-year break from competing, there was much to do.

Lynch got to work, securing donations and materials. She knew what the team needed to succeed. She found a group that would donate a trailer, “a necessity to move our robot and supplies to events.” Next, she gathered a group of engineers, mechanics, and a programmer to volunteer time and mentor the students. Lastly, Lynch found local businesses “that believed in supporting our students in their robotics adventures.”

Lynch also began finding mentors. JP Langworthy, Greg Sampley, Matt Danner, Ethan Cummings, and Jeremy Zimmerman agreed to coach and mentor the team.

Once all important pieces were in place, Lynch agreed to be the lead coach for the robotic team.

Lynch is a science and English language arts teacher for Schoolcraft Middle School. She also oversees the middle school yearbook and student council. Her plate was already full, and this new role involved acquiring new knowledge in addition to a significant time commitment. But she believed in it and her family was behind her.

As a robotics competition alumnus, “my son Keegan knew that it had opened doors for scholarships, colleges, and employment for him and for several of his friends in engineering.” Alum Jared also realized it was also beneficial for non-engineering students. Both sons were mentors this year. Lynch realized having mentors who have been through robotics competitions was essential.

The school’s previous teams had competed in the worldwide FIRST Robotics competition. FIRST is an acronym: “For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology.”

Teams design, program, and build a robot starting with a standard kit of parts and common set of rules to play in a themed head-to-head challenge. Teams also build a brand, develop community partnerships for support, and work to promote STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – in their local community.

After the build season, there are regional competitions. Top regional champions go to a state competition, and the top state competitors go the world competitions, where top robots from about three dozen countries compete. (For more information about FIRST robotics, go to firstinspires.org)

Seven Schoolcraft students make up the team:

Dylan Danner – Main Drive Team-Arm Control
Lukas Rinderspacher – Main Drive Team-Robot Driver
Jesse Keim – Main Human Player and Technician
Alex McInnes – Main Technician and Battery Keeper-Backup Drive Team-Arm Control
Alex Zimmerman – Backup Drive Team-Human Player
Noah Hinson – Backup Drive Team-Technician
Kaden Goodman – Backup Drive Team-Robot Driver

Lynch said the team decided to keep it easy this first year. Some of the members had no experience with tools, design, 3D printing and programming. “They just had a desire to be on a robotics team and compete.”

For their first year, the team competed in two events with two basic goals: to design, fabricate, and program a robot that runs and to score points.

The first was at Calvin in Grand Rapids. There they learned to maneuver the check-in and inspection process, as well as how to scout, communicate with other teams, and work quickly to make repairs between games. Lynch said the team also learned “to never give up, even when broken, and to just enjoy the day. We did not place in the top, but we also did not place in the last.”

The second was at St. Joseph High School where they won more events. They learned how to drive more confidently, take chances, compromise with alliances, overcome stress, and, according to Lynch, what FIRST teaches: “To have gracious professionalism. We were chosen to be on an alliance team for round 2 competitions, and in the end, our team’s alliance ended up in 5th place.”

The team looks forward to next year and thanked its sponsors: Argosy Foundation, Weber Specialties, Armstrong International, Summit Polymers, Meijer, Kalamazoo Airport, and the Schoolcraft PTA.

Those interested in joining the club, becoming a professional mentor or sponsor are encouraged to contact Karin Lynch at lynchk@schoolcraftcs.org or (269)488-7350. The team can be followed on its Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/schoolcraftrobotics.

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