Griffins Robotics Team 5327 launches thanks to NASA grant

Kevin Boozer Staff Writer

December 18, 2013

Kevin Boozer

Staff Writer

WINNSBORO — A select group of Fairfield County students is engaging in a new robotics club thanks to grant funding from NASA.

Fairfield Central High School Griffin Robotics Team 5327 was recently awarded the 2014 National Aeronautics and Space Administration Robotics Alliance Project, FIRST Robotics Competition Grant Award. The grant enables students to compete in Myrtle Beach at the 11th annual Palmetto Regional Robotics Competition from Feb. 27 through March 1.

The $6,000 NASA grant paid for the team’s registration and competition entry fee but members are currently seeking additional support from the public and private sector for lodging expenses and to fund additional resources.

Zachary Bowens, communications director for Team 5327, said this high school STEM club will build a robot and if the team does well enough, the senior said they could move up to national competition. The team has from Jan. 4 to Feb. 23 to complete the project.

Robots must be designed to complete specific tasks. SCE&G engineers and local businesspeople will help the students design the robot, but it is a student-led organization led by Michael Urias, president; Paige Burnett, vice president; Kensey Downs, secretary; Jarrett Houston, treasurer; and Bowens.

Bowens has done maintenance work at Lake Waccamaw Ambassador Camp for two summers and also has attended Clemson’s C-Cast Summer Program, a youth leadership program with a technology component. He said those experiences should help the robotics team reach for its goals.

His teammates are high achieving students driven to do their best. In fact, Team 5327 has 25 members with a GPS of 3.0 or higher.

Challenging, elevating

According to the school district, the program was put in place to challenge these students and connect community members and business leaders to their educations.

“The 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition is another collaborative initiative that connects our students to success,” said FCHS Principal Tracie Swilley. “The Fairfield Central High School Griffin Robotics Team 5327 will promote engagement, exploration, and project based learning in areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related careers through participation in FIRST programs.”

Swilley said students, faculty and community partners have a great opportunity to form a new team and expand local participation in FIRST Robotics Programs by integrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics into the high school curriculum.

FCHS Career Specialist Stacey Feaster said the team helps address college preparation and career readiness in a unique way.

“All community stakeholders have an interest in securing a strong, educated and talented workforce,” Feaster said. “By establishing a pipeline of competent professionals with FIRST Robotics experience, future employers are guaranteed a larger pool of STEM graduates with analytical skills, computer skills, and project management knowledge and experience.”

Goal: Increased participation

She said Team 5327 was organized to increase the number of students interested in STEM-related careers through participation in FIRST programs.

Faculty and community partners also provide unique learning opportunities for all robotic team members as mentors and support of the future workforce.

According to Feaster, the robotics team will provide mentorship and sponsorship opportunities to support a 21st century, STEM focused-curriculum. Feaster said the Griffin Robotics Team will be actively involved in the community and that community service is a top priority for team members. Students will not only participate in school sponsored events, but they will mentor future team members.

The following faculty and staff members have volunteered to assist Team 5327: Stacey Feaster, April Finley, Fides Rivera, Muthiayan Robinson, Glenn Robinson, Sarah Trani, Gene Stephens, and Jane Wilson, 2013-2014 Fairfield Central High School Teacher of the Year.

“We are very excited to build our first robot and work together as a team,” said Team 5327 President Michael Urias, a FCHS senior. “This experience will improve our technical skills and provide exceptional cooperative learning opportunities to work with experts within our community.”

Community partnership

Clemson Extension Agent Angela Jones and Sgt. Welch with the S.C. Army National Guard also assist Team 5327 with leadership programming, mentoring and corporate sponsorship. Jones said when she came to Fairfield County she wanted to start a 4-H robotics program.

“This is an awesome opportunity (enabled by the grant) that I wanted for our community at first as a 4-H robotics club. I talked with Mrs. Feaster and Mr. Green about a high school partnership and it has been a real blessing,” Jones said.

The Clemson University Extension Agency in Fairfield County, South Carolina Army National Guard, It-oLogy, Midlands Education & Business Alliance, Midlands Technical College, SCANA, V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant, and the Fairfield County School District have also agreed to provide assistance to Team 5327.