Robots coming together for Springboro team thanks to crowdfunding

A team of students from Springboro High School is crowdfunding to raise money to build a robot.

Members of EMC2, a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Tech Challenge team, are using social media to find and engage like-minded individuals interested in supporting their cause. Donations are used to buy robot parts and pay for competition fees.

“We had heard about things like Kickstarter, but that was for products and not really for school teams,” said Springboro parent and team coach Skip Gridley. “Then we researched and found posts on social media about a new startup called Edco, who was focused on helping robotics teams. We signed up and have learned a lot and been helped a lot by them. At one point in our season, before we began crowdfunding, we were unable to build the robot we had designed, because we didn’t have money to purchase the high performance wheels we wanted to use.”

FIRST Tech Challenge is a robotics competition for high school students. Teams design, build and program their robots to compete against other teams. Students advance from local qualifying tournaments to the state championships, before advancing to the World Championship Tournament.

“Our robots are built using raw materials as well a building system called TETRIX. We can also design our own parts, use 3D printing and other modern manufacturing processes to create any parts we can think up,” Gridley explained. “The robot itself must fit in an 18-inch cube at the start of a match, but is free to morph after that. Students design the robots with help from volunteer mentors and coaches and, beyond a few basic rules, are really limited only by their imagination and resources.”

Students learn about engineering in a practical, hands-on way. They design the robot using computer-aided designing and drafting software (CAD), build it and program it, carefully documenting each step.

“I really enjoyed learning all the new skills that being on this FTC team has taught me. I’ve learned how to do CAD and other programming skills,” said SHS sophomore Owen Cummins.

Students also gain business skills – they fundraise, write strategic plans, learn how to use social media responsibly and effectively and improve their presentation skills.

“FIRST robotics helps kids learn valuable STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, but they also learn it’s about more than just the robot. They learn valuable entrepreneurship skills and how to market themselves and their ideas,” Gridley said. “Learning about crowdfunding and social media this year has been invaluable for the kids on the team in terms of growth and maturity, as well as being a key part of helping them realize their creative vision when it comes to building their robot.”

So far, the team of 10 students has raised about $2,500 and hopes to raise an additional $2,500. Edco matches donations with STEM Power Grants provided by various companies to support engineering education, so donations have double the impact.

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