Mini-grants to benefit two area robotics teams

Published 7:34 pm Thursday, June 19, 2014

VALLEY GRANDE — Two local robotics teams will soon have the proper power tools in their toolboxes after receiving some hefty grants from the Valley Grande City Council.

Two $500 educational mini-grants were awarded to the robotics teams at Martin Middle School and Dallas County High School during Monday’s Valley Grande city council meeting.

Mayor Wayne Labbe said it was clear each program is an important asset to the students at their respective school.

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“I think it’s important to support these programs because they give the children a taste of things they could experience and work with later in life,” Labbe said. “It is about working with your hands and power tools, but they are learning about things that aren’t just related to robotics.”

Math teacher Glenn Walker, who has been the robotics team advisor at Dallas County High School for four years, said the extra money will help purchase power tools for the team.

“This will be a huge help, because the parents and myself have had to bring our personal tools and let the students use them,” Walker said. “And they don’t come back in the same shape I brought them in.”

The educational mini-grants program was started in 2012.

Each year, teachers from Martin Middle School, Dallas County High School and Valley Grande Elementary are invited to apply for the grant money, which can be used by the winning teachers on projects that supplement a given lesson plan.

Former city council member Libby Ezelle, a retired educator herself, said it has been an honor to be in charge of the mini-grant program since its inception.

“Having spent 31 years in the classroom myself, I know how desperate teachers are for a little extra money to do anything,” Ezelle said. “There is very little money available to teachers to do anything on any kind of project they want to do. They either have to raise the money or pay for it out of pocket.”

Ezelle said the lessons learned by members of the robotics teams go far beyond basic engineering skills.

“It is basically a pre-engineering program,” Ezelle said. “They have to design, plan and build a robot, and then they go to competitions. Students have to do it. They have to make group decisions and problem solve as a group.”

Walker said while the grant money would be put toward power tools, it would allow the clubs to continue the overall the education of the team members.

“It’s a well-rounded program,” Walker said. “It’s not just robots and technology. They are putting together a business and problem solving, and it is all student oriented.”