Sheffield Lake – Sheffield Village
by Michele Murphy
They look like a team of surgeons hovering over a body, heads bowed, talking quietly, using a tool here and there. In actuality, they are Team 6403A, Brookside High School’s crack robotics team, ranked third in Ohio as they headed into state competition against 68 other high schools over the past weekend.
As you peel each team member away, you find some incredibly dedicated young people. They are dedicated to learning, to robotics and to their teammates.
Jake Klein is one busy guy. He takes computer science courses at Lorain County JVS before returning for the rest of his classes at Brookside. He became interested in robotics after watching his older sister, a Brookside alumna now attending Wright State University, compete in a robotics tournament in Zanesville.
Perhaps beyond his abiding interest in robotics and computer sciences, he says he “loves being with my team.” He is very open about being shy so the friendships he’s made in robotics are important to him. He smiles and adds, “We find time to have fun” and talks about building quad copters for kicks or racing small bots that they find time to build when not working on competition-level robots.
Just a few minutes later, he and teammate Ryan Palmer are racing little bots on the classroom floor while others cheer on their friendly competition.
Sophomore Ryan Palmer says he “loves building remote-controlled stuff,” which he began doing at age 10. Palmer maintains a busy schedule as well because he is already enrolled in college credit courses at Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in addition to being home-schooled and participating in robotics. For Palmer, robotics gives him an opportunity to be around others who share his interests. From his perspective, one of the biggest benefits is “being able to communicate with people,” which he says “is huge.”
The desire to be around people is also what prompted Audra Palmer to join the robotics club. Like her older brother, Ryan, Audra is home-schooled and taking classes at LCCC. She says one of her near-term goals is to write an engineering notebook for the team next year. This appeals to her interest in creative writing, she says.
“I’ve learned so much I never would have learned,” teammate Parker Sherry states. He cites coding as one example. Besides, for Sherry, “It’s fun.” His mom is Brookside teacher Beth Sherry, who waited patiently after school last Tuesday to drive her son home even though they had both put in a full day of learning and teaching. She was also there on Friday as the two high schools teams boarded a bus taking them to the state competition. She had been up late the night before as they continued to tweak their robot for higher performance. While they packed things up for the bus ride, she told them she was proud of them, although her pride was easily evidenced by the cooler of drinks she brought them for the trip, her smile and her presence. Several students asked whether she had made time to have lunch but she gently brushed them off with a wisecrack, making her priority clear – them.
The team is rounded out with Emily Biltz, Rachel Landis and Eric McElheny.
Rachel’s last name may sound familiar. It should because her dad, Kevin, is the team’s adviser and a math teacher at the high school. He is also the person who gets credit for starting robotics clubs in the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake School District four years ago.
In state competition, the team finished 6th in skills competition, qualifying them for worlds, and built a 5-2 record in teamwork competition, edged out by one other alliance for the state championship, according to Landis.
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