Champions for Education

group2 - cropped.jpgThe Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) recently presented its 2014 Champions for Education award with 3 out of the 7 champions recognized specifically for their leadership in FIRST Robotics including Valiant Machine & Tool, Unconquered Sun Technologies Inc. and Sheri Lynn Koscielski.

When WEtech Alliance first conceived the idea of growing the FIRST Robotics program in Windsor and Essex, we dreamed about the possibility of doing our small part to change the landscape of education in our region by bringing more partners and resources to our schools and help position our young people for durable careers in a 21st century knowledge economy.

We never expected FIRST Robotics to grow so quickly.  In under two years, the program has grown in Windsor and Essex from just one (1) high school to thirteen (13) high schools competing in this prestigious international robotics competition that involves 3000 high schools worldwide and is supported by over 3000 industry partnerssuch as Boeing, Bombardier, Chrysler and Google.

We also landed the Windsor Essex Great Lakes Regional – making Windsor one of only seven cities across Canada to host an annual Robotics Regional that draws 40 robotics teams and 1,500 high school students from across the world.

What really surprised us, however, is the passion and dedication that FIRST Robotics has sparked in local companies, volunteers and mentors who have taken up the cause of preparing our young people to be industry leaders and to drive our economy forward as our future engineers, skilled workers and technology entrepreneurs.

WEtech Alliance is proud of all of our industry sponsors, our community partners such as St. Clair College and the University of Windsor, and of course our volunteers, mentors and students who make up the excitingworld of FIRST Robotics in Windsor and Essex.

Below are descriptions of our Champions for Education.

 

Valiant Machine & Tool  

Building a robot and making it work is no simple task. It requires engineering and electrical expertise. There’s computer programming and metal fabrication and of course it takes money. It is an incredible odyssey for a group of high school teachers and students. What they need is a hero, an intrepid supporter to come to their aid, someone valiant, one might say.

 It’s providence that Valiant Machine & Tool threw its support behind the Belle River Nobles in their quest to form a robotics team.

Valiant provided the Nobles with everything they needed to compete in the Windsor-Essex FIRST Robotics competition for the first time.There were tours of the Valiant manufacturing facilities with instruction on robot design and construction. They gave them the physical tools and equipment to build the robots and then the advice and encouragement in the areas of design, programming, project management as well as health and safety. Valiant also contributed financially and with promotional materials to help the club build its profile within the school community.

 Through the course of the project the students were able to spend countless hours working closelywith their professional mentors. They got to use the latest laser and water-jet cutting tools operated by cutting-edge computer software. A number of students are now considering manufacturing and engineering as educational and professional options. During the robotics off-season, Valiant is maintaining their relationship with Belle River students giving them additional advice and confidence so that they can become more self-sufficient in terms of operating their robotics club like a small business.

 Valiant has been lived up to its name and is a true Champion for Education.

Unconquered Sun Technologies Inc.

The relationship between Unconquered Sun and Tecumseh Vista Academy was generated by one of the most fundamental elements, geography. The school and the company are neighbours and last fall, when the Vortex robotics team went looking for a place to build, program and practice with their robots they didn’t have to go very far.

From the beginning Unconquered Sun was an enthusiasticpartner. The students and their teachers have been given almost unlimited access to the company’s facility, they receive technical support and encouragement from the employees and when time came to compete, at the FIRST Robotics competition, Unconquered Sun was at the University of Windsor cheering on their team. Both the students and the folks at Unconquered Sun are eagerly looking forward to next year.

Meanwhile the alliance continues to expand. At every school event, the company is there promoting environmentally friendly, alternativeenergy sources. When something needs to be moved or transportation is needed around Vista’s 30 acre property, students and staff can make use of the company’s signature solar-powered golf carts.

As well, Tecumseh Vista Academy now has half a dozen students participating in a welding and electrical co-op program with Unconquered Sun. It’s a perfect placement. Not only do students receive knowledge and experience in a burgeoning industry, they are sincerely welcomed and valued and they can walk to and from the shop floor.

 Just as the solar panels they produce turn the sun’s rays into electricity, Unconquered Sun has turned a relationship of convenience into a productive learning experience and for that, we celebrate their shining example by declaring them a Champion for Education.

Sheri Lynn Koscielski

Versatile, dependable, tough…Sheri Lynn Koscielski’s husband, Larry, refers to her as “the Swiss Army Wife” and she has used each and every device in her inventory to support the Sandwich Sabre Bytes robotics team.

Sheri Lynn’s 4 children have all been team members, but it was some time before she became an active member herself, accepting an opportunity to mentor students in the business aspect of the organization in 2010.

She has added “Robo Mom” to her list of noms des geurre as the students quickly became comfortable with her leadership. Sheri Lynn’s ability to get them organized and working toward a common goal is a key reason why the Sabre Bytes won the Chairman’s Award at the recent Windsor-Essex FIRST Robotics Competition.

Her own prowess was recognized following the event when she received the Volunteer of the Year Award but that honour was not only for her efforts with the Sandwich team. Sheri Lynn helped 13 other local high schools launch their robotics programs during the year and she also assisted 10 elementary schools start Lego Robotics teams. She organized numerous sessions for the students and teachers of those new teams to learn with the experienced Sabre Bytes. She helped them with fund raising and to write grant applications and get sponsorships from local companies.

But Sheri Lynn is by no means one-dimensional in her voluntary endeavors. She gives her time in the Sandwich cafeteria and for close to 20 years has been involved in Scouts and Girl Guides in the LaSalle area. Sheri Lynn Koscielski is the kind of player we are glad to have on our team and we’ll add another name to her list…Champion for Education.

Dr. Irek Kusmierczyk is the Director of Robotics and Youth Programs at WEtech Alliance.