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 KHS Principal Ritchey to Preview Robotics Program July 2

June 25, 2008 - Designing, building and testing robots are just some of the activities Knightstown students may be seeing in the future.

For more information about such activities, students, parents and engineers are invited to attend an informational call-out meeting at 6:30 p.m. on July 2 in the student commons room of Knightstown High School. During the meeting, those in attendance can also see a robotics demonstration by students from Perry Meridian High School.

The meeting is an effort to judge and build interest in a national program called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, Knightstown High School Principal Scott Ritchie said.

According to the FIRST website, the program is designed to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

"It's an effort to involve the students with the community of Knightstown High School and invite the community into the building to work with the students that our normal curriculum can't offer," Ritchie said.

For Ritchie, the program is not new, as he started a chapter of the program at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis before coming to Knightstown. The Perry Meridian chapter currently has about 40 students and 10 engineers, Ritchie said.

For now, Ritchie said that the program would be for high school students, but he later hopes to expand to middle and elementary school students depending on interest. High school students interested in participating would compete in the FIRST Robotics Tournament.

According to Ritchie, FIRST will release a game in January 2009. Students and engineers then design, build and test a robot in six weeks. They then take the robot to a regional site at Purdue University, Cleveland or Detroit, and compete against other high schools using the game FIRST created.

In order to compete, the program would need at least 10 students for the first year, but can grow as big as needed, Ritchie said.

As for funding for the program, it would be an extracurricular activity for now, but, according to Ritchie, there are grants available. However, the program would need to raise funds until it develops corporate sponsorship, as there are some costs involved, Ritchie said.

According to Ritchie, to do one local competition and one national competition in Atlanta, estimated costs are between $15,000 and $20,000 on a bare minimum scale.

"It's a thing where we are going to have to get a year under our belt and show local industries the value of the program to build support," Ritchie said.

While the program can be costly, according to Ritchie there are many positive benefits the program would establish.

"The ability to work with engineers is something that I want to bring here to Knightstown for these students to experience," Ritchie said. "For kids to understand what real engineering is and to meet real engineers is also really valuable so they understand those careers are out there and they are exciting."


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