School Bulletin: Robotics team closes technology divide

School Bulletin: Robotics team closes technology divide

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A team of problem solvers from the Elmbrook School District is closing the technological divide for students across the area. When the pandemic forced schools to go virtual, the FIRST Tech Challenge GEarheads saw their peers didn’t always have the right equipment. 

“Not everyone had access to reliable internet,” Sidharth Rane, a freshman at Brookfield Central High School, says. “We had three laptops laying around in our house, so why can't we do something about it?” 

The FTC GEarheads are usually focused on their robotics competitions, but after helping families adjust to virtual learning, the team found there was more to do. The students put out a call for old computers and collected 79 pieces of equipment. Some were recycled and others were refurbished by the team. 

Through a new partnership, the GEarheads sent some computers to the Milwaukee School District. Other laptops went to students with the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Milwaukee Area, who compete in the same league. 

“Last school year, we didn't have teams up and running so this was right on time as we're rebuilding,” Toya Griffin, says. “This is just one thing we didn't have to worry about. We can focus more on getting kids to sign up and get involved.” 

“When you start early on coding, it gives you an advantage,” Matthew Nustad, a freshman at Brookfield Central High School, says. “It’s not just in that area but all over because you learn problem solving and team work.” 

The integrity shown by the GEarheads is a critical piece of the FTC competitions. The students are even judged on “coopertition,” which promotes sportsmanship in the robotics arena. 

"It’s a responsibility of every FIRST team to give to other teams and to try and make every other team stronger,” Deborah Nustad, FTC GEarheads Outreach Project Coach, says. “In competition...other teams are actually expected to go and help either fix or provide extra parts.” 

The Brookfield FTC GEarheads say they will keep this recycling program going but start collecting earlier for the next school year. In the meantime, the team is preparing for the FTC State Tournament in March. 

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