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Students dedicated to robotics competition

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PAY IT FORWARD: The Miami Valley has been home to generations of science innovators. We're in a new era of technology, and some of the brightest young minds in the Dayton area are taking charge.

Innovators Robotics is a group of talented middle and high school students with an interest in science and engineering. Their main goal is to compete in FIRSTrobotics competitions, and they spend the first six weeks of the year designing and building a robot.

FIRST is defined as “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The nationwide organization focuses on inspiring future scientists at all grade levels.

Innovators Robotics is known as “Team 3138” in the FIRST community, which consists of about 20 students from many Dayton area middle and high schools.

Along with the students, 12 engineers who work for some of the Miami Valley’s top employers, volunteer countless hours of their time outside of work. They not only help guide designing and building a competition robot, but inspire and help students decide which path they may want to take in college.

Alex Ronnebaum, a sophomore at Yellow Springs High School, said: “Our mentors are super important with us.” “They’re not telling us what to do… not really coaching us, but sort of guiding us, or when we get stuck on something, they can help us with it.”

The encouragement really pays off for the students.

“Even though it’s summer and we’re off of school, this is essentially my life, so I want to be up here as much as possible.” Said Brianna Moen, a senior at Dayton Regional STEM School.

Clarissa Milligan knew she wanted to get into engineering, but wasn’t sure which focus to take. She is responsible for computer programming for Team 3138, and even helped develop a scouting software that can track the movements of competitors’ robots. The software won worldwide recognition.

Team 3138's mission is expensive. They must spend almost $40,000 to $50,000 per year. Fortunately, they have many wonderful sponsors, including RPG industries near Tipp City that provides the facility and tools to the group.

Students have never paid a dime to join, and they've learned many life skills along the way. Not only that, but the mentors find the experience rewarding.

“What I find really rewarding, is to see the students get interested in engineering.” said Scott Milligan, a FIRST volunteer and Computer Engineer for Leidos Inc. “…we work with the students, we share our career with them, and inspire them.

William Pickl is an Aerospace Engineer for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He says that students can spark non-engineering interests while competing in FIRST.

“You can literally do anything you want to do.” “You can be in marketing, you can be on the business end, you can do presentations, you can be a project manager…” said Pickl.

The potential for future science innovation right here at home, and the amazing amount of volunteer hours put aside for a younger generation by current engineers is why FOX 45 has chosen “Innovators Robotics Inc. – FIRST Team 3128” to be this month’s recipient of Elk & Elk’s Pay It Forward campaign.

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