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Robotics club gets OK from Pine-Richland

| Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A new robotics club at Pine-Richland Middle School will teach the basics of programming and building but needs community support to get off the ground.

A FIRST Lego League Robotics Team chapter at Pine-Richland Middle School was approved by the Pine-Richland School Board at its August meeting. The group aims to teach students basic programming and robot building skills, which then will allow them to compete at local, regional and national tournaments.

Students will compete against other school teams by building a robot to complete a set of challenges and also find an “innovative solution to a research problem,” Pine Richland High School sophomore Arushi Bandi said. The topic of this year's research problem is “World Class Learning.”

The club, open to seventh- and eighth-graders, was spearheaded by Bandi, Assistant Superintendent Michael Pasquinelli said.

Bandi became interested in the robotics competition when she joined the Girls of Steel all-female robotics team sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University last year.

“During the time I spent there as a freshman, I realized how important school cultures are that encouraged students to explore fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and provided them resources to do so,” said Bandi, 14.

But before they can get to programming and building, they need to secure funding. As a rookie group, Bandi said the club has a higher cost to start up and run than an established group.

Bandi said she has applied for a grant from the Pine-Richland Opportunities Fund and reached out to several local robotics companies, but she still is looking for more financial support from the community to stabilize the group for years to come.

FIRST Lego League, or FLL, is an international program open to children ages 9 to 14. There are more than 20,000 teams in 70 countries.

Once the group gets funding, it will release applications to interested students. The maximum number for a team is 10 students. Bandi would like to recruit an equal number of boys and girls for the team.

The group will meet after school under the supervision of adviser Valerie Klosky, high school computer and business teacher.

“FLL is a great way for young students to explore STEM before they enter the high school,” Bandi said. “With this prior knowledge, going into high school they will be able to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible without feeling they are unprepared.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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