Poplar Bluff class receives donation to buy robotics kits

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 12:47 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 7:20 PM CDT
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POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (KFVS) - A philanthropy group donated more than $5,000 to the Poplar Bluff High School robotics class.

The money will be used to buy several robotics kits so more students can practice engineering.

”Its just really great,” said Senior, Jared Gilham.

The Montgomery Family Foundation from Georgia sponsored the science teacher who reintroduced robotics to the school system.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” said Kathy Miller.

“All of the kids can get their hands on the equipment instead of having one or two working on everybody else standing around trying to not be bored, they can all get in there and do something with it,” said Miller.

“Kathy Miller – her outlook, her ambitions for these kids, is contagious; it really is. There is a legacy very apparent,” explained Robert Bennett of Butler County, a local liaison to the board of directors. “Kathy Miller’s thoroughness, her due diligence in this thing over time—she had real perspective on what was necessary and truly needed—and that proved to be a turning point in our conversations.”

Bennett visited the school district in February, and watched the students prepare for a robotics competition.

Miller had a conference call with the board officers over the summer and explained the program, which began with a Robotics Club in 2013, and eventually led to a series of semester long classes.

At the beginning of the month, seven TETRIX FIRST Tech Challenge Competition Sets, valued at about $700 apiece, were delivered to the science department.

According to the school district, over the past few years, Miller was only able to buy a single kit of lesser quality components, otherwise she would have to borrow from the after-school club, co-sponsored by social studies teacher Michael Sowatzke.

“This means us being able to have enough materials to divide the kids up, with each person actually getting a chance to work on a robot, and not just looking on,” Miller said. “Just because we’re a small school in Southeast Missouri, doesn’t mean we can’t have an upper-level class that leaves here being able to show how to look at problems, and how to go through each of the different engineering steps to solve them.”

Senior, Jared Gilham programs the robots and enjoys getting this hands-on experience.

“That’s really helpful because want to go into computer science in the future,” said Gilham.

Others students say they’re interested in studying engineering in college and Miller is preparing them for that.

“They have an engineering notebook, they have to record everything that they do because if someone wants to build one just like that, they can take their notebook and without asking them anything they can go back and build the same thing that they did,” said Miller.

Miller said there’s a great need for workers with knowledge on robotics.

“Businesses need people that know something about robotics not just how to build a robot, but how to maintain a robot, how to work with the software and the hardware so this gives them a leg up as they’re getting started,” said Miller.

Established by the late Lawrence John Montgomery Jr. in 1989, the Montgomery Foundation supports programs at multiple universities across the United States, and has provided other educational opportunities for financially challenged students.

Some of the students in her class are also members of the robotics club which competes with other schools in the region.

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