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AMC helps spark interest in science, technology through robotics

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
A state-champion robotics team called "Robo Raiders" showcased their winning style during a demonstration here Jan. 24 in an effort to spark interest in the science, technology, engineering and math fields--commonly referred to as STEM.

The team was one of several invited here by a STEM advisory group within Air Mobility Command in an effort to recruit mentors and volunteers for upcoming competitions. Mentors are needed to help teams of youth ranging in grades K-12 in building robots and competing at state and regional levels. Volunteers are also needed to help with administrative and judging aspects of each competition.

Michele Cushman, a Robo Raider's volunteer/mentor going on six years, is now helping to prepare them for regionals in Iowa. She explained that each team completes three different scenarios where they explain their team's core values, research project, and robot design.

During the core values portion, teams complete a task together, and are evaluated for their self-confidence, communication, and leadership skills. Volunteers also help set up and tear down events, monitor safety, as well as keep score and judge the robot competition.

"You really get to see how they work as a team and their personalities. If you are unsure of volunteering for this program, after your first experience, you will not say that again," Cushman said.

Dr. Don Erbschloe, Air Mobility Command Chief Scientist, serves as the advisory board chair and said they hope to "spark the interest of the next generation of scientists and engineers. That's what the STEM program is all about, and why we have a vested interest."

General Darren W. McDew, AMC Commander, introduced the teams during the event, commenting that he wished they had this program when he was young, and how he enjoyed watching the world competition a few years ago. He then asked one youngster, "Did you know that math and science were involved in this program?"
"I just want to play with Legos," said the child, filling the room with laughter.

Susie Mathieu, a volunteer, said, "It's really not about the robot, but about all the skills that transfer to life. By the end of the season, the students learn skills that equip them for the future. They have to fund their team, manage a budget, buy parts, design equipment, etc. The robot just gets students through the door and it's fun to watch!"

This particular robotics competition program falls under the umbrella of "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," or FIRST. Their mission is "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 foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership."

For more information regarding FIRST, please visit For details about volunteering at the international FIRST Championship in St. Louis, contact Susie Mathieu at (314) 401-1800. The event will take place April 22-25.