DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Having just returned from the World Championships in Houston, the Crestwood School District’s robotics team is seeking sponsors and donations.
The team, Charger Robotics, had qualified for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) Robotics World Championships in Houston, Texas in late April by winning the Engineering Inspiration Award at the Michigan State Championship.
The Engineering Inspiration Award celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s school and community and it is the second highest award a team can earn.
Peter Marabeas, a teacher with the Crestwood School District for 23 years, teaches STEAM robotics classes for fifth through eighth grade at Riverside Middle School and coaches the Crestwood girls and boys tennis teams and the high school robotics team.
Eighteen years ago, Marabeas was teaching fifth grade math and social studies at Riverside when he was asked to take over teaching computer classes.
“At the end of the school year, our computer teacher left and, being the resident geek on staff, I was asked to take over teaching computer classes,” he said. “She also ran the FIRST LEGO League Robotics Club after school and I took that over as well. I found out that there is a high school program that was also a part of FIRST called the FIRST Robotics Competition. I eventually started a high school team at Crestwood five years ago. We now run seven FIRST LEGO League teams for fourth and fifth graders and nine FIRST Tech Challenge teams for sixth through eighth graders.”
As we continue to advance our robotics programs in our district, not only in middle school and high school, but also in the elementary school, we are always looking for people in the field of engineering, electronics, computer programming, as well as mechanical expertise to help us and our students in this process. – Crestwood Superintendent Dr. Youssef Mosallam
The FIRST Tech Challenge team also competes against high school teams through the FIRST Robotics Competition, one of only five middle school teams in the world to do so.
“The FIRST robotics team is more than just robotics,” Marabeas said. “We build leaders, teach communication skills, including writing and public speaking. There is an entire business side to the team where we have graphics and marketing teams that design our website, banners, shirts and publications. We also engage in community service. We have made blankets and donated them to area hospitals and have bagged food supplies at Gleaners. We have run LEGO workshops for younger children in the summer to teach them STEAM and help our district run STEAM camps during the summer. We engage in and embrace Gracious Professionalism and Cooperation, terms coined by FIRST Robotics. We compete hard, yet respect and aid our opponents when needed. The whole program is a reflection on how companies operate in the real world.”
Marabeas said the main goal of the team is to build responsible leaders who can tackle any problem they face with confidence and determination by building teamwork skills.
In the last five years since its creation, the team has grown from a team of 11 boys and one girl to a team of 27, with one third of them being girls.
“As we continue to advance our robotics programs in our district, not only in middle school and high school, but also in the elementary school, we are always looking for people in the field of engineering, electronics, computer programming, as well as mechanical expertise to help us and our students in this process,” Superintendent Dr. Youssef Mosallam said. “We are even open to having sponsors donate to our program to help offset costs. To build a true robotics program through STEAM learning is costly, but also involves high levels of support from members of the community in the industries.”
As the team has just recently returned from Houston, its entire budget has been depleted as the cost of the trip was nearly $35,000, which is nearly double its overall expenditures for the year.
“We are actively looking for sponsors and donations from the community,” Marabeas said. “Individuals can donate directly to the team using our PayPal link on our team website at www.team714.org. We also partner with local businesses through sponsorships. We advertise on our website, banners that are displayed wherever we go, team shirts and on the robot itself. The greater the sponsorship, the greater the exposure the team will give the business. Anyone interested in business or corporate sponsorships should email the team at Team7174@gmail.com and we can contact them with further details.”
Marabeas said it’s not only financial assistance the program needs, but community members can get involved in mentoring teams with no special skills necessary.
“We are wanting to become more involved with the community and we need their support,” he said. “This program has been the most rewarding I have been a part of as a teacher. It has provided memories as well as opportunities for our students. It has taken what students learn in the classroom and applied it to real-world challenges and has done so in a fun and exciting way. Most students that start and complete the program have found this to be one of the most challenging, difficult and rewarding times they have experienced in high school.”