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Robotics team pitches funding idea to state senator

L-R: Laura Schimmel, Sen. Jim Marleau, Jenny Yell, Conner McGarry, Austin Newby, Julia Reynolds, Hansen Yao, Forrest Fox and OHS teacher Phil Kimmel. Photo by Andrew Moser. (click for larger version)
February 15, 2012 - The Oxford High School Robotics team, TORC 2137, was showcasing more than school spirit Friday morning.

Michigan Senator Jim Marleau (R-Lake Orion) stopped by the engineering lab to listen to a proposal from the robotics team to allocate approximately $5,000 for each high school robotic team in the state.

According to the proposal, the amount would cover the initial registration fees and tournament fees for all FIRST robotics teams in Michigan.

"Michigan hosts approximately 190 FIRST robotic teams. The $5,000 would cost Michigan approximately $950,000. That is a very small percentage of the $400 million surplus (and even smaller than the 1 billion dollar surplus). The one time would be one with great returns for years to come," the proposal said.

The payments would be for the 2013 robotics season.

"We are trying not to just think of our team because FIRST is a community," said Kim Shumaker, a parent supporter and OCS Board of Education trustee.

Marleau said he would take the proposal to the senate.

Following the presentation, a tour of the engineering lab was conducted, leaving Marleau in a state of awe.

He informed students they needed to "learn teamwork" in order to be in the real world.

"The problem being is sometimes stepping out of college and going into the workforce and stepping out of high school and going into the work force, you can't quite realize how to work as a team," he said. "You have to be a team player, and that is evident here. You will be light years ahead of others who don't have this opportunity."

He told team members they were doing the best thing they could do gain engineering experience - being hands on.

"TORC 2137 is a great opportunity for young adults to be able to get hands on experience and to be able to take classroom experience and put it into a practical environment and work together as a team," Marleau said.

He added the program was beginning to increase the importance of science and math.

"We have great things going on in athletics, great things go on in music and great things go on theatre, and here we have something that young men and women that want to be part of the future of our country as far as technology and NASA and all the other types of things we are used to having," Marleau said. "Michigan is known for it's automotive industry. That is all the experience that comes from this robotics team."

Shumaker informed Marleau during the tour that the Robocats was the first high school team in Michigan to gain sponsorship from a company located overseas.

The Robotics team received a $3,000 sponsorship from Beijing Channel Consulting, located in Beijing, China.

"For us, it was our mimic real world engineering," Shumaker said. "What we wanted to do in our funding was mimic that part of real world engineering, which is the fact that engineering is globally interconnected now. Hopefully we will have partnerships that will be long-lived and that they will be able to repeat their sponsorship each year so we can stay funded."

They also received cash and computers valuing over $5,000 from Valeo, located in Auburn Hills and based in France, over $5,000 in laptops from Inacomp. Kettering University gave TORC $5,000, and so did the school district.

Shumaker said the team has had a deficit in funding since 2009.

"The school...and even FIRST Robotics has helped us out the last two years to be able to pay for nationals that we qualified for," she said. "So this year, to be fully funded, that is the first time in a long time for TORC."

According to Shumaker, the Marleau visit was part of a grant stipulation from NASA, who gave the team a $5,000 grant through FIRST Robotics.

She said the team had to write a 10,000 word essay, complete seven 500 word short answer questions, a video production and document things they did as a team to promote FIRST to the school, community and state.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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