Dosek: robotics can transform the classroom at Scottsdale Schools

I had never heard of robotics until last fall.

Alison Dosek

It wouldn’t have been on our radar at all without Mrs. Michelle Okun starting the club at Desert Mountain High School and getting the word out for students to come check it out. She has done a phenomenal job to get this rookie team off the ground.

To think at the beginning of the season that no one really knew anything about robotics and to end up getting the honor to compete on the world level, was completely unbelievable.

Even more incredible is that this rookie team ended up getting 3rd place at the Worlds (FIRST) Competition in Houston, Texas last month.

These kids, mentors, teachers, parents and community members have more than stepped up to create an amazing team. The hours that were dedicated by the team and mentors and Mrs. Okun are countless. Just during the six-week build season, they easily spent 40 hours per week just on robotics. This is on top of their normal work and school schedules. I’m still completely blown away by their sheer dedication.

The team learned how to raise money, do marketing, create a business plan, compete against other teams, create alliances, strategize, program the robot (coding), drive the robot, build the robot and to build each other up. To put a price on the wealth of knowledge and experience gained is impossible.

As a mom I couldn’t be more proud of this team and their accomplishments. The support of the DMHS principal and other SUSD board members has been crucial.

This past week the team was asked to attend the SUSD school board meeting. As the president of the club, Maddie Dosek (sophomore) was in the midst of challenging the school board to make this an actual accredited class rather than an extra-curricular, the Superintendent — Dr. Denise Birdwell — was overwhelmingly supportive and practically interrupted the speech to say, “yes!” It was an unforgettable moment.

As one of the mentors (Armando Viteri), who is the CEO of a mid-size software company, said, there are over 1 million jobs unfilled (in the software industry alone) with salaries of over $100k/yr. He explained the United States is behind compared to other countries and that the percentage of students that are getting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) degrees is 16 percent here as opposed to 32 percent in several other countries. So, the trend has been to hire from abroad first before hiring from the U.S., however, this will change when we get kids engaged in elementary, junior high and high school. He said that waiting for the colleges to create this desire in the kids is too late. This responsibility lies with the school’s way before that.

One of my favorite things I learned through the FIRST Robotics program was the word “Coopertition.”

It means to not only do your best and be a fierce competitor but to also help those around you. By focusing your efforts not only on your own self and own team, you are a much better teammate and citizen in the big picture. I think adults could learn a lot from this type of thinking!

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