Ludington robotics team demonstrates its skills to public. 

October 16, 2021

Ludington robotics team demonstrates its skills to public. 

Oriole News is a presentation of Ludington Area School District in partnership with Mason County Press.

By Kate Krieger, MCP Correspondent. 

LUDINGTON – As the Ludington High School Robotics Team, the O-Bots, gets ready for its fifth season, it invited the public to come check out the program Thursday, with hopes to spark interest in any students who may want to join in on the fun they have.

“I love building robots, that’s why I’m here,” senior member, Vibeke Rivet said. “Michigan has the most concentrate of teams in the world. It’s super fun, it’s really a hard thing to think about before you can see it, but it’s so fun once you do. I came in not knowing I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I learned a lot.”

Coach Karen Shineldecker said most of the students who first get involved with the robotics program really have no idea what it actually is, she also stated that most of the public don’t really know what they do.

“People should attend to be more informed of what these team members really do,” she said. “Industry leaders and families can benefit from the skills that these amazing students acquire through the program. They are developing skills that are being used in industry around the world right now. These soft skills and trade skills will enable full integration into their careers without gaps of transition. Communication development and collaboration strategies can be overstated with the education of our young students as we prepare them for their future.”

From the five years the program has been active at Ludington High School and OJ DeJonge Middle School, the majority of the students who participated in the robotics program have gone onto college or the workforce finding careers pertaining to something they found a passion for while a member of the team.

Competitions haven’t really been the same since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My favorite part of robotics is going to competitions,” Rivet said. “Going to Detroit for Worlds in 2019 was the best. We didn’t have competitions in person last year, but so far, the plan is that we will compete in person this season. I’m very excited about that.”

Shineldecker responded, “Post COVID will not only be physically different as we are mindful of distancing with safety precautions, but the enthusiasm for competition will need to be built back up. Our team is not different when we say they were disappointed when their events were cancelled or somewhat disappointing made virtual. Our kids are social beings and need that dialogue and experiences to develop into autonomous young adults.”

One of the biggest parts of the robotics team doesn’t come from the team, but from the support of the organizations and businesses that help fund the endeavors of the team. The functioning budget for the LHS O-Bots is between $20,000-30,000 per year and that money is either through sponsorships that the team members seek out or it comes through fundraising’s or donations.

“I want the community and public to understand that they (team) wouldn’t be successful without that support,” Shineldecker said. “Look what they’re creating for their future, their community. So many of the industries here are telling us they need these skills at their business and these kids can walk in already knowing what they’re doing and sometime even teach those they’re working for something new that we did here. We need to starting talking to these businesses and them them this is what are kids are doing.”

Shineldecker stated that if area businesses are looking for interns or to train students for future employment, she is more than happy to help make those dreams realities.

Recruiting students is always on the minds of the coaches and the team members and many students showed up at the open house to see what robotics really is all about. Also, a lot of the incoming freshmen were also there, excited to be participating on a larger level.

“I was in robotics in middle school, freshman, Quinn Merchant said. “I wanted to keep doing it and all of my friends were doing it. It was cool to watch everything play out, especially when you’re doing it with your friends. You get to learn all the new machines, in middle school all the pieces were pre-cut and a lot smaller.”

The middle school team, The Cyborioles, will compete in its district competition on Nov. 13 in Fruitport and then the eighth graders get the opportunity to join the O-Bots in January, when their season actually begins.

“The O-Bots are in off season mode,” Shineldecker added. “Thy are busy promoting, doing workshops, training, fundraising and doing community outreach before the season kicks off.”

Junior Olivia Klevorn has been a member since her freshman year and even though the team isn’t really meeting very often yet, she is very excited for January to come.

“The whole season is like we get ready for six weeks and we work really hard and we get to bond with our team mates,” she said. “We go off to competitions and we have the most fun for a whole weekend and then we come back to school and keep working and then we go for another weekend. I’m on the programming and electric team, like every wire you see on the robot we put together, it’s quite a process.”

For those interested in becoming more involved with the LHS O-Bots or to help in any way, contact Karen Shineldecker at [email protected].

“It’s amazing what the O-Bots have accomplished,” County Chairwoman, Janet Andersen stated. “Knowing Karen and Cary Shineldecker and knowing all the work that they have done with the kids is and mentoring them, it’s incredible. These kids are our future engineers and product designers, I think this is great.”

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