The Macomb Daily
Middle school robotics team recognized for title
Coach: Team wants to inspire creation of more Macomb County squads
Justin Bigelow, coach of the Armada Middle School’s state championship team in robotics, hopes that achievement will inspire the formation of other robotics teams in Macomb County, especially in middle schools.
Bigelow spoke last week as the team was recognized for winning the FIRST in Michigan state championship in December by the county Board of Commissioners at its meeting in the county Administration Building in Mount Clemens.
Bigelow commended his team but said, “Our biggest goal is to have more teams in Macomb County, be able to show the kids that, ‘Hey, these are available, these teams are available,’ and get them involved so we have more kids like this coming out and helping out business world, our factories, or engineers of the future.”
Bigelow said it was “remarkable” the team, the Pi-Gears, won despite not having any three-year team members.
He guided the students with the help of five adult mentors.
“These guys put in a lot of work,” Bigelow said. “I pushed them very, very hard but they always rise to the challenge. I’m proud of them more than a coach can possibly be. We made them think. We made them work. Nothing comes easy. We show them one time and they’re expected to learn.”
The Pi-Gears, which has been competing for five years, defeated 71 other middle schools in the state at the competition at Macomb Community College. Macomb County’s Shelby Robotics had two teams in the competition.
The team of designers, builders and software programmers had to come up with a robot 18” x 18” that drops cones on to a series of poles of varied heights.
In briefly describing the Pi-Gears’ machine, which was wheeled into the board chambers on a car, Bigelow said things were designed via CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) and printed. He noted a claw “swings side to side” and the “chassis design spins, doesn’t take too much space but also has speed to move around.”
He also talked further about efforts to get more youths involved in robotics to help train them for careers in related fields.
“We are very low in terms of robotics teams at our level in the Macomb County area vs. Oakland and St. Clair counties in comparison,” he said. “So our biggest goal is to continue to spread the word of robotics and prompt STEM throughout our county.”
STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, a reference to those subjects being taught in schools.
Armada’s goal is in line with the goal of FIRST in Michigan (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) state organization.
It seeks “to strengthen the school to STEM career connection by implementing the FIRST progression of programs in every school and school district, preschool through grade 12,” says its web site. “FIRST in Michigan wants students to thrive in a high tech world with an unbridled passion for skilled trades, engineering, programming, and corporate problem-solving.”
Bigelow wasn’t just paying lip service to those goals. The Armada PiGears has conducted 18 outreach programs, reaching 2,000 people, and advocates for robotics programs through U.S. Sen. Gary Peters’ office.
“As a result of these outreach efforts, two additional FTC Lego League teams at Krause Elementary were started,” the proclamation says.
Board Chairman Don Brown of Washington Township, whose district includes the school, praised the youths while presenting plaque displaying the proclamation.
“You guys in Armada, Macomb County’s own, won the state championship,” he said. “You made us all proud. (I’m) looking forward to another championship next year. Don’t feel any pressure,” drawing laughter from the audience. “This is a product of public education in Macomb County, how good it is.”