President Visits High School Robotics Team
(Skipwith, Va.) – Under normal circumstances, a presidential visit to a rural, Southside Virginia high school would be an enormously improbable event.
But thanks to President Barack Obama’s bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia and his commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, members of the FIRST Robotics Competition team at Bluestone High School in Mecklenburg County experienced a once-in-a-lifetime encounter on October 18, 2011.
“We only received a few days’ notice that the president might visit,” said Betsy West, one of the mentors of “Skrappy’s Crew” the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team at Bluestone H.S. “And we were told to keep the matter confidential for security reasons.”
Secret Service agents spent several days inspecting every nook and cranny of Bluestone High before the president arrived for his 30-minute visit. Members of the robotics team learned of the visit only an hour beforehand.
“We were very excited to meet the president,” said West. “We’re in a very rural area and not a lot happens around here, so I was happy the students got this opportunity.”
“When he walked in, I felt ‘wow, I cannot believe that this is happening and I’m actually going to meet the president,’” said Tyler Wilkerson, a Bluestone H.S. senior and robotics team member. “It’s something I’ll tell my grandkids about!”
“He was very interested in our program. He loved the robot demonstration and asked lots of questions about the robot and about what sparked our interest in the program,” Wilkerson added.
“The president was particularly pleased that we have a lot of girls on our team,” said West. “He said that, as a father of two daughters, he’s committed to extending science and technology educational opportunities to girls.”
The FIRST Robotics team at Bluestone High was formed in 2004 and has enriched educational opportunities for students in Mecklenburg County ever since. FIRST Robotics is a program that combines the rigors of technology with the excitement of varsity sports to inspire young people to pursue education and careers in science in technology.
The team’s first robot was built from scrap lumber, road signs and metal and was aptly named “Skrappy.” The name stuck and the team adopted “Skrappy’s Crew” as its moniker. The team is grateful for sponsorship support from a large number of local businesses, organizations and individuals, including Verizon, Clarksville Ruritan Club, Mecklenburg Co-Operative, Mecklenburg County Business Educational Partnership and Mecklenburg County Public Schools.
To learn more about FIRST, visit www.virginiafirst.org.
Article by Jim Babb, VirginiaFIRST Robotics
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