The planet may be enthralled with R2-D2 and C-P30, the robotic characters that offer comic relief in the latest installment of the Star Wars series, but it’s the boys and girls of the Lennard Robotics Club who are soldering the wires and building the circuitry today that will bring the technology of that galaxy far, far away closer to home, said Jim Reve, the Lennard Robotics’ team faculty adviser.
Reve was speaking at a practice session at Lennard where nine local high schools tried out their robots over a series of obstacles, all in preparation for a county-wide contest slated for Jan. 15 at Wharton High School.
“They have 10- and 45-degree ramps, so they are just trying their designs that they have worked on for the last month or so,” said Reve, who teaches science and astronomy at Lennard. He will be teaching principles of technology for the first time at Lennard next year, one of only four high schools in the county teaching the course.
The Lennard Robotics team started in 2011, and “we have just moved and moved forward and have gotten amazing support from the community, especially from Ruskin and Sun City Center,” Reve said.
A local company, Legal Shred, recently came through for the club, purchasing a wire and flux welding kit for $386. [Jason Fredricks of Legal Shred is currently running for Honorary Mayor of SouthShore.] The welding tool will enable club members to take on bolder and more ambitious projects like bridges for competitions, build and race electric go-karts, as well as design and build Quad-Copters. Go-kart sponsors can have the whole side or any flat surface on the kart or a 2-foot-by-2-foot section for upcoming races Jan. 16 at Wharton High School, and Feb. 20 at USF. Races are also slated for March, April and May.
Club members will also be building and competing in Battlebots, an increasingly popular contest where teams build robots that battle each other gladiator-style.
The club started with five members and has drawn up to 20 members. The club has 15 members this year.
What draws the youngsters to the club, meeting at lunch for an hour and three hours after school three days a week?
“Hands on,” Reve said without hesitation. “It is for them to come in and try their own ideas. There are no bad ideas. There are no failures. Like today, the design they had was completely designed and built by students; I have no part in it. If it works or doesn’t work, it is not a failure. It’s about what they have learned.”
Teaching is a second career for Reve. An engineer, he worked on the space program for 26 years before stepping into a classroom.
“But I love it,” he said. Looking across the room at his team of five young men and two young ladies working on the Lennard robot, “That’s what it’s all about. Seeing them working on it and trying to figure things out.”
Kristina Driggers was one of those helping figure out what was wrong with the team’s robot. A freshman member of the Lennard team, Driggers has always loved learning how things work.
“It’s just really fun. I like building things and watching them go.”
Kristina’s mom couldn’t be prouder of her daughter, breaking gender stereotypes in a field traditionally dominated by men.
“I am glad to see her exploring her opportunities as a child because I would have been a little nervous to do it at her age,” said her mother. “They put a lot of hours into doing this, but she really seems to enjoy it.”
Lennard is lucky to have Reve, said Dan McFarland, Hillsborough County’s supervisor for secondary science education.
MacFarland said, “One of the wonderful things about Jim is that he brings in very practical knowledge of applied science and a spirit of ‘why not? And we won’t know if we don’t try.’”
That attitude permeates the Lennard team.
“What makes this program [at Lennard] special for me is that they reach out to kids who may not have ever been connected into technology and engineering and it really helps kids to understand they have a future in a very high-tech field,” MacFarland said.
“It’s great experience for our students,” said assistant principal for student affairs, Marcos Rodriguez. “It gives them a look at future careers involving math, science and engineering.”
For more information on sponsoring the team or to help out, email Jim Reve at email@example.com or call 813-641-5611.