Lewis & Clark robotics team takes top prize

A group of seventh and eighth graders at Lewis and Clark Middle School are making their mark on the science community. KRCG caught up with the school's robotics team at their recent practice session to hear more about what they do and why they do it.

The "Brutal Bots Crew" at Lewis and Clark Middle School came home with the first place trophy at the October competition at St. Louis University, beating out eight other teams, all of them high school teams.

"It was really intimidating," says seventh grade team member Makayla Jordan. "I mean I was a nervous wreck when I got up to drive. I was so nervous."

They are now preparing for the regional competition held this weekend in Fort Smith, Ark. They will face nearly 40 teams, most of them again high schoolers.

The goal of this year's competition: make a robot in six weeks out of the parts given to you by competition organizers. The robot must remove airplane parts from a small hanger, assemble the plane, and then hang it on a small magnet.

These young engineers even took time out to give me a quick lesson when I stopped by at Wednesday's practice session.

"For a lot of kids, they're tinkerers," says robotics team teacher Jeanie Simpson. "They build stuff at home but there is no place really at school to build things."

That changed last school year when Simpson came to Lewis and Clark and started the robotics club. Simpson is determined to get young engineering types hands-on experiences in hopes of getting more young people interested in a career in math and science. Thanks to her, that's exactly what's happened.

"I wanted to be something else, but now that I did this I want to be an engineer and build stuff," says seventh grade team member Logan McCubbin.

"I want to be a teacher," says Jordan. "And Ms. Simpson's really inspired me to be a math teacher."

But Simpson says the students have learned more than how to build a robot. They have learned patience, perseverance, and teamwork.

"Nobody just jumps in and does anything anymore," says Simpson. "They all talk to each other first and make a unified decision. It's just the best to watch those wheels turn."

ALPLA, the plastics corporation in Taos, is the team's sponsor and have given the team hundreds of dollars of tools, a laptop, and spent weeks monitoring the assembly of the team's robot.

But the team is always looking for more help, especially with expenses for their trip to Arkansas. If you want to lend a hand you can call Lewis and Clark at 573-659-3200.

After this competition in Arkansas, the team will compete in the Lego competition in January.