FLINT TWP. — Da Peeps, an award-winning robotics team at Carman-Ainsworth, were invited to the school board meeting in recognition of their accomplishments including an excellent showing at the World Festival 2013 in St. Louis.
They received an award as a finalist in their division and also were nominated for the Connect Award, which is based on community service, said Coach Leanne Welch, a teacher at Rankin Elementary School.
One passionate parent compared it to the Olympics.
“I don’t know if people realize it, but when they go to the World championships, this is not like the World Series in baseball,” she said. “This is 120 countries, 128 teams – Russia, Romania, China and Japan. It is huge. This is the equivalent of these kids winning a Bronze Medal at the Olympics.”
She noted representatives from NASA and IBM attend these meets and she is surprised the team’s success is not emphasized more with signs and such, similar to recognition given to champion sports teams.
Superintendent Steve Tunnicliff said the district is very proud of the accomplishments of its robotics teams and has recognized each one at school board meetings.
He also said he would be remiss if he did not acknowledge Dr. Bill Welch for bringing robotics programs to C-A and the Flint area some 20 years ago and continuing to support the efforts. He is Leanne Welch’s father.
Bill Welch said that gracious professionalism is part of the competition and these students represent C-A and their families well when they compete out of state.
Leanne Welch noted that interviewing is a part of competition. The students have to be able to articulate to judges what they know.
Da Peeps, aka FIRST (FTC) team 3485, consists of students in grades 9 through 12, ages 14 to 18. They have worked together since fourth grade – eight years – and won three state championships and one world championship. Many are graduating from high school and the team will not be running next year, Leanne Welch said.
She noted the team does more than just build robots and enter competitions. They do many community serv- ice projects.
One is a Tanzanian Initiative in which they connected with an orphanage in Tanzania, Africa, through Skype and arranged to send them robotics gear.
In a Senior Citizen Initiative, they visited a senior center to teach them technical skills,, such as how to do Facebook and operate a cellphone.
They also have a link with military families, work with elementary school children and participate in robotic demonstrations.
The C-A board presented each student with a certificate of recognition. Members include Christopher Smith, Cassidy Elmer, Mikaila Garrison, Meghan Borgerding and Taylor Talbert.