We’re all familiar with Madtown Robotics, the Madera High School team of budding young engineers that makes robots and uses them to compete in national events. But unless we see demonstrations of the robots we can’t grasp the complexity of the work involved or the achievement of the students and their mentors.
Just such a demonstration was given Tuesday before the Madera County Board of Supervisors, which watched in open-mouthed wonder as the latest Madtown scoring machine tossed basketballs into a hoop with the regularity of LeBron James, the NBA champ Miami Heat scoring machine.
“That thing is better than LeBron,” said one spectator, who was as awed as anybody.
The buzzing and clicking robot is operated by remote control and powered by batteries that supply electricity for driving the electronics and mechanics on board. When you see it in action, you also can see the logic behind how it works.
If you were to walk past it without having seen it working, however, you would have no idea what it was for or how it worked. It doesn’t look like anything you normally see. It sports a lot of blinking lights, belts, levers and motors.
It had to be built more or less from scratch, from a kit of parts supplied to all contestant schools by the national robotics program. The students manufactured nearly everything else besides the common parts themselves.
On top of that, they had to raise money — $25,000 to $30,000 — to fund the program.
This is a great educational opportunity. As one team member said, it gives students a chance to try out math and other science theory in a practical way, which leads to more learning than the typical classroom experience can provide.
The team did very well in national competition in St. Louis earlier this year, and hosted a regional competition locally.
Schools often are criticized when people don’t think they are being run properly, or when problems arise.
When learning opportunities like this come up, however, we often don’t praise them enough.
This program is an effort not only of students and teachers, but of community members, parents, businesses and sponsors.
We are so proud of these young achievers and of the school system which made their work possible.