Real World Engineering Experience

April 4, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — The robots have made their way into West Michigan again and have created quite a stir in the world of engineering.

And this Thursday through Saturday, a robot crafted by local youngsters with professional guidance will be in a national competition in Houston, Texas.

The 2003 FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition held this past weekend introduced students to engineering with a hands-on approach. Students learned every aspect of the process of developing and marketing a robot and then maneuvering their creation through an obstacle course.

One of the teams — the Titanium Rampage Robotics Team, also known as the T-Rams — comprised of students from Central High School, worked with Siemens Dematic and was mentored by professionals in engineering, marketing, project planning and execution to design, build, promote, test and enter a robot in a series of local, regional and national competitions.

The youngsters designed their robot to carry an object as it is remotely piloted through an obstacle course.

This is the team's fourth year in the competition and for some students it has laid the groundwork for a future in engineering.

A member of the team, Princess Braxton-Davis, has been with the program since its inception and plans to take what she has learned with her upon graduation this year.

"This is my fourth year on the FIRST team and it has inspired me to pursue a career in mechanical engineering and to keep my grades up," Braxton-Davis said.

"Consequently, I've received a full scholarship to Kettering University where I'll be getting my engineering degree — and maybe one day working for Siemens Dematic."

The T-Rams team is comprised of six groups of students, each responsible for a different phase of the robot creation, function and competition. The entire team is as follows:

**Administrative team: Shirley Monte, Paul Rau and Khalil Winbush.

**Animation team: Rafeal Toronto, Matt Pickel, Josh Carruthers, and team leaders Tom Kaminski and Chris King.

**Driving team: Nichole Foote, Ronald Jefferson and Armond Jordan.

**Engineering team: Mario Butler, Eric Carter, Troy Cunningham, Carlos Hernandez, Dantya Jennings, Francisco McKnight, Erik Osmolinski, Nicholas Paola, Morris Richardson, Nick Richardson, Ryan Tasma, Tyonna Winbush and team leaders Alan Folkersma, Adam Williams, Eric Wilson, and Tauno Williams.

**Marketing team: Princess Braxton-Davis, Shennan Goodman, Derraleigh Jackson, Brandan Jernigan, Roxana Ledesma, Craig Martin, Senait Tewalde, Alisha Webbs, and team leaders Nathan Mars and Linda Rowe.

**Strategy team: Alex Atwood, William Martin, Andrew Pickel, Lauren Richardson, Bill Ritzke, and team leader Gary Vruggink.

"FIRST Robotics is a win/win situation for everyone who comes into contact with it," said Linda Rowe, of Siemens Dematic and marketing coach for the T-Rams.

"The students gain real business experience through a hands-on approach to engineering and marketing. The coaches are challenged to present what they do every day in new, fresh ways to inspire the next generation.

"We were very successful in finding a common ground that focused on building a team, as well as a robot, to win the competition," she said. "As a leader in innovative technology, I am proud of the role that Siemens Dematic plays in encouraging students in careers in science and technology."

She and other leaders told the Business Journal the T-Rams have worked hard on their robot and throughout the entire presentation and implementation process of each competition. The team held a fundraiser and was able to obtain press coverage from three television stations, all part of the outreach by the students.

Being a member of the T-Rams is a popular extracurricular activity. But to participate, students must maintain their grades.

Joe Grandy, Central High School's principal, says he's impressed with the program.

"This program offers opportunities to our students that they might not have access to in their everyday lives. Students learn to expect more out of life. This is a unique opportunity for them to understand their own value.

"People from the community care about them and want them to succeed. This is a new experience for many of our students — someone who doesn't have to cares about and believes in them. The energy has spread throughout the entire school."

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