What were you doing in middle school?
Bet you weren’t building robots.
Well, these students have been. And that’s what made the Wrens Middle School “Junior Beta Robotics Team” national champions.
The seventh- and eighth-graders arrived home to a hero’s welcome after the amazing win last week at the 21st Annual Jr. Beta Club Convention in Orlando.
First at the state convention last fall and then at the 13,000-member national convention, the Wrens students demonstrated their “C-4” – a Coke-opening, beverage-pouring, can-crushing robot they’d built from scratch. Theirs was one of only two robots at the national convention that weren’t built from pre-fab kits.
Our hearty congratulations go out not only to the students — Burton Arnold, Cayden Arrington, Evan Gibbons, Jacob Newman, Jason Templeton, Bryar Stewart, Nate Williford and Yu Zhang – but also to sponsors Michelle Stewart, a school counselor, and teacher Tracey Rowland, whose husband, Gil, along with fellow KaMin engineer Elton Seton, helped guide the project.
Great accomplishments such as these don’t happen alone or in a vacuum. They are always made to happen by passionate, determined people. And if you see a national champion middle-schooler, there’s an adult or adults standing behind them.
This is what the Beta Club is all about: encouraging and rewarding academic achievement, character, service and leadership.
Ask the Wrens Middle School Junior Beta Robotics Team if it feels rewarded.
For that matter, ask the community of Wrens – which is certifiably one of the most economically challenged counties in the United States, yet which is now home to a national champion in robotics, of all things.
Interesting timing, too – since Wrens is embarking on a consolidated middle school that, with the help of experts from Augusta University, will emphasize a “STEAM” curriculum: Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics.
The Beta team’s win is a huge morale boost to the area, as is the burgeoning partnership with Augusta University.
“We often hear that conditions in rural schools are desperate, and many times because of limits on budgets, both in terms of family budgets and district budgets, that fact is true,” says Zach Kelehear, dean of the College of Education at Augusta University.
“However, when a Superintendent of Schools, like Jefferson County’s Dr. Molly Howard, commits to creating a learning environment for all children that is rich in content, relevant to the community and employer needs, and innovative in nature then remarkable things can happen.”
That makes Dr. Howard a champion, too – most notably a champion of her students.
Exciting things are happening in education in Wrens. A national championship may just be the beginning.
Who knows? Maybe C-4 will be working in the cafeteria someday.