New high school team, the Bearbots, readies a robot for competition

Roosevelt High School has a brand new team of students who work together, exercising brain power and science skills for competition.

The 15-member rookie Roosevelt robotics team, nicknamed the BearBots, formed earlier this year, and is affiliated with FIRST robotics. 

The extracurricular group meets from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. three days a week in the school’s STEM room, and will meet even more often as competitions — one March 13 in Belleville and another March 26 in Woodhaven — draw near.

If the team fares well then, it can qualify for state competition.

The goal is to build a robot that can accomplish the goals set out in this year’s FIRST ( challenge. Those goals and the contest rules will be released in January. To make and program a remote-controlled robot, the students must apply science, technology, engineering and math.

Coach of the BearBots is Nickolas Gravlin, a Michigan Technological University graduate who recently earned his teaching certificate in physics education from Eastern Michigan University. 

“The things kids get to build are amazing, and I’m so glad that they have the opportunity to do so,” he said. “My goal for the team is that all the students learn something and have a great time.”

Two parents — Fergus McDonald and Theresa Crnkovich — serve as team mentors. Both parents were involved as mentors for Wilson Middle School robotics teams when their kids went there. Now students Tadhg McDonald and Rachel Crnkovich are freshmen at Roosevelt, and they’re continuing their interest in robotics, as are freshmen Ciaran Thomson and Maria Bora, who also were involved at Wilson.

“I like building,” Ciaran said. “I have always like taking things part and putting them back together.”

Rachel said: “I like working with my hands, and robotics helps me get firsthand experience with working with others and using technology to solve a problem. I want to go into orthotics and prosthetics.”

Tadhg simply finds robotics to be fun, he said.

The new team also has to raise funds and perform community outreach.

“Rookie teams need a lot of support,” said Crnkovich, who serves on the Wyandotte Board of Education. “We have had tremendous support from the school district. They are helping us by providing a meeting space, and helping us set it up, finding and hiring a coach, providing our registration, and helping us secure state grants. Robotics is an extracurricular that is very expensive, and FIRST encourages teams to be self-funded.”

So the BearBots will be doing fundraisers in the future, and reaching out to businesses and community groups for support. To help or learn more, visit Roosevelt Robotics on Facebook, rhsbearsbots on Twitter or rhs_bearbots on Instagram.

Maria said she is interested in performing community outreach.

“I like marketing and working as a team, seeing it all come together,” she said. “I’ve made new friends.”

Meanwhile, the BearBots are working to build and program their robot.

Sophomore Josh Tracy, who plans to study theoretical physics in college, said his goal for the new team is that the robot they make actually works. Sophomore Sean Wetter’s goal is to learn programming. Sophomore Ella Ray said she wants to try everything involved in robotics, and sophomore Hayden Matzkows wants the rookie team to do so well that they make it to state competition.

Junior Finn Gomez said he is glad his high school now has a robotics team.

“We did not have a team at RHS in my freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “When it started, I wanted to join to be part of the first year.”

Also excited to build and program their robot are freshman team members Brody Bates, who hopes to be an electrical engineer someday; Carlos Morales, who also plans to go into engineering; and Mikayah Pilon, who wants to build computers for a living.

Freshman Sam Bovee said: I enjoy building and programing, but I’m not sure what I want to do as a career.”

However, freshman Caden Schleuning has already mapped out a possible future for himself.

“I have an obsession with computers and technology,” he said. “One day, I want to preside over Microsoft.”

The team members will talk about their objectives, and introduce themselves to the Wyandotte City Council on Jan. 13 — part of their community outreach.

Sophomore BearBot Jacalyn Kovesdi is ready to convince the city leaders of the value of the new team.

“Robotics is fun and interesting,” she said. “You learn great teamwork skills, and it teaches good sportsmanship for the real world.”

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