Robot competition one focus of school district tech program

  • Eric Berto<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:26am

The four-foot tall robot can probably score goals better than any of them. But that’s the point of Herky1.

Herky1 is the product of an after-school project for approximately 30 Mountlake Terrace High School students who are building the robot for a competition the first weekend in March.

The students are also part of the Career and Technical Education classes the Edmonds School District offers and this is their week.

National Career and Technical Education week runs from Feb. 12-18, but Mark Madison, the district’s CTE director, said that the 20 different programs the district offers are important year-round.

“Typically, when students learn skills in a classroom setting, there’s very little connection to real-life applications,” he said. “(CTE students) are using it in real-world applications and solving real-world problems.”

More than 1,000 students participate in classes ranging from business or media communications to classes such as carpentry, fire science, biotechnology or a student-run flower shop.

Some of the programs are at all high schools, but some, such as the flower shop at Lynnwood High School, attract students from across the district.

Herky1 is the product of one of the CTE classes. Since Jan. 7, the students have been working to design, build and program the robot, which will be part of a team of robots.

In the competition, teams of three robots shoot foam balls through three targets ranging from a 30-inch-wide vertical hole eight feet off the ground to something more akin to a hockey goal.

As he pondered the best way to solve a problem on the robot, Mountlake Terrace freshman Talha Ali said that he became involved with the class in order to learn computer programming.

“I’ve always wanted to know how to build (a robot),” he said. “The experience with it will help me after high school.”

Ali said that regardless of the career path he chooses, technology would factor into that job.

“With our community, we are going to be going more toward technology,” he said. “Now a days, many more people are using e-mail and other technology more. More hands-on projects like this would help us in the future.”

The classes, such as the health occupations class, can also get them a job. Students can earn a myriad of professional certificates, such as a Certified Nursing Assistant license, ASE certification from the automotive technology classes and Web master certification. Those certifications typically are earned at the community college level. Madison said that 90 percent of the CTE courses earn students college credit.

Students can also save money by taking the courses at the high school level. The course fees for the classes are no more than $25, Madison said. At a community college, one quarter of tuition can cost more than $1,000.

Madison said that the district’s CTE offerings have adapted along with the demands of the work place. It used to be that only wood and metal shops were offered. Now, the newest class is a “pre-engineering” program designed to prepare students for employers such as The Boeing Co.

“(The classes) are meeting a real need in our schools,” Madison said.

At Mountlake Terrace High School, that need is getting Herky1 finished in time for the contest.

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