Robotics matters. Really.

Thursday’s story on Ashland High School’s 2013 FIRST Robotics Team is evidence that, no matter where this journalism journey takes me, robots are going to be part of the equation.

It’s the fourth such story I’ve done on the innovative competition in the past four years, one that forces high school teams from around the world to throw their own disc-throwing, pyramid-climbing Johnny 5 together in six frantic weeks. The Oregon/SW Washington regional competition is set for early March.

An email I received the day the story ran reminded me of a key – maybe forgotten – reason why this type of opportunity can be so important for science-minded youth. Here’s a bit of what it said Note the bold section:


I have read your article in today’s paper regarding the Ashland High School students involved in robots and want to share a couple of thoughts. Our son, Matt Heverly, is an engineer at JPL in Pasadena. He is a robotic designer and the lead rover driver for Curiosity, the robotic science laboratory on Mars.

Can you put me in contact with (the team’s coach) to see if he might be interested in listening to Matt’s presentation or contacting him for a possible Skype interaction with these young robotic students?

I, of course, forwarded the email on to the team. I hope this meeting gets set up. If it does, this group of teens will get to chat with someone who has similar interests and dragged that passion around with him until it paid off in full. “Curiosity” is a household name now.

I covered education in Klamath Falls before moving here, and I have to tell you, to know  a meeting like this could take place in the middle of so many cuts to public school budgets is encouraging. The administrative types may not appear to give a damn about shaping and molding the next generation of Steve Jobs-es and Albert Einsteins, but individuals like the man above clearly do.

And it’s not just him. These students received grants from NASA and several local businesses. They have mentors lining up to help and offer advice.

This group of robot-building lads and lasses is surrounded by knowledgeable encouragement on all sides, and they should milk it with all their might.

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    Ryan Pfeil

    This is a blog for southern Oregonians to check in on all things geek. Sci-fi, history, comics, movies, video/photo and anything else that would have gotten you shut in a locker in high school. Have fun. Read Full
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