Since 2009, a group in Manitowoc County has been taking a robotic approach to science education, and it's been constructing a lot of fun.
The goal of Lakeshore FIRST Robotics is to give students the building blocks to build. But in addition to fun, it’s also helping carve out careers.
Arrow Guetschow is an engineer by profession. So when an opportunity came up a decade ago to gets kids interested in science, he was all in. He helped launch the Lakeshore chapter of FIRST Robotics.
"I’ve seen good kids become really great engineers and just really great people, but I’ve also seen kids who were failing out going into mechanical engineering programs," says Guetschow.
And for Guetschow, FIRST Robotics has become his second full-time job.
"I do this every day," says Guetschow. "Basically, I get off work and I come here. I teach a team here or in Lincoln, or we have steering committee on Wednesday night. We go all day on Saturday. Sunday I’ll be taking care of paperwork and grants."
Kids make robots and other mechanized devices from the ground up, and compete in local, state and even world championship competitions.
A room at Valders High School serves as an equipment, meeting, and construction space.
About 400 students are currently involved in Manitowoc County. Groups are broken down by different ages. And older students in the program have been passing down their skills by mentoring younger ones.
For her efforts, Cara Steiner received a Green Bay Packers Give Back Award last year.
"I really enjoy working with people from different schools because there are a lot of people that I would have never met if I didn’t join this team,” says Steiner.
And for Guetschow, all the volunteer hours he puts in pays off when a student’s curiosity becomes a career.
"We want to keep the talent that we have from the area in this, so we can have more engineers, more machinists, more electricians," says Guetschow. "That talent pool is what everyone is looking for and fighting over right now.”
Last year, there were 57 First Robotics teams in Wisconsin. They competed for six spots to go to the World Championships. The Lakeshore chapter alone had three teams qualify from Manitowoc County.