The Seven Rivers Robotics Coalition celebrated Ashley Furniture as its latest sponsor during its first preseason training session at Luther High School in Onalaska last weekend.
Earlier this month, the Arcadia-based furniture manufacturer announced it would donate $20,000 to area schools to support robotics programming, $10,000 of which would go to jump start the fledgling Trempealeau County First Robotics team, which draws members from area schools.
The final $10,000 was split between the nine teams that make up the 7RRC, which includes those from La Crosse, Onalaska, West Salem, Holmen, Westby, Caledonia, Houston and La Crescent.
“We have over 200 students involved,” La Crescent High School Robotics Coach and 7RRC President Mark Moulton said. “It’s a really big deal to get this program going.”
According to Kris Gengler of Ashley Furniture, investing in the 7RRC was another opportunity to support STEM education in area schools.
In recent years, the furniture manufacturer has made donations to support STEM throughout the region including the purchase of $10,000 worth of VEX Robotics kits for students in Trempealeau County.
“It really goes back to developing these meaningful partnerships with area schools,” he said. “We greatly value all the efforts they are putting forth into educating today’s youth, and we fully support all of the local school’s educational initiatives.”
According to Moulton, Ashley’s donation is a big deal not only for Trempealeau County schools but the 7RRC as a whole.
“All of our money comes from donations, and all of our teams are supported by them,” he said.
Moulton said it costs a school $5,000 just to register in First Robotics and that’s before parts, travel and lodging is taken into consideration.
“On average, it costs about $10,000 to run a team for a year,” he said. “Without donations like this, we really can’t survive.”
Moulton said Ashley is far from the 7RRC’s only sponsor. Mathy Construction, Kwik Trip, Flex Craft and Acentek are just a few of the area business that support the 7RRC.
He said every bit sponsors donate makes a big difference to offset the cost of the program.
The 2018 First Robotics season will kick off the first week in January when teams will receive their challenge.
From here, teams will have six weeks to prototype, build and program a robot that can complete each stage of the challenge, before it’s bagged and tagged ahead of the first tournament.
In preparation for the 2018 competition teams, mentors and sponsors from throughout the region gathered at Luther High School this weekend for a little preseason training.
Luther High School Robotics Coach James Mahnke, who has hosted the event for the last five years, said it’s the training session for all the area teams to get together and prepare for the season.
“It’s our way to pool our resources and work together as a coalition to improve our robotics season so when our official build season begins the first Saturday in January, we can all hit the ground running,” he said. “Every year we’ve got brand new kids who are always coming with seniors who have graduated… there is always a lot of turn over.”
Training included sessions on prototyping, building, programming, marketing, and strategies.