Robotics students building success at Memorial High, Ninth Grade Academy

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Port Arthur Independent School District added a robotics club this year, introducing the dynamics of programming, coding and fabricating.

Darrell Anderson, computer maintenance and robotics instructor at the Career and Technology Education building, said this year’s robotics club is a predecessor to an official CATE program the school is hoping to launch next year.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life and to make it in Port Arthur, you have to diversify, you have to be able to do a number of different things,” Anderson said.

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“The idea is to be able to sell yourself by learning different things. With robotics, it teaches the kids everything they need to know. They learn about the motion and the mechanisms that make things work.”

Memorial High School robotics and computer maintenance director Darrell Anderson demonstrates how to use an arena for robotics training.

Anderson said the club began as a way to add something extra for the kids to choose as an extra-curricular option, but changed to focus on real world jobs and curriculum.

“The idea behind the program is to get kids acclimated with robotics so they can understand how to build them, how the motors work, how to code and how to program,” he said. “We are excited about our program because we have a new robotics company in town, Robogistics, and they are interested in working with our kids. So now it’s about filling those jobs.”

Two weeks ago, 12 members of the Memorial High School robotics club joined with five students from the Ninth Grade Academy to participate in PAISD’s first robotics competition.

TCEA Robotics Area Contest was held Jan. 17-18 in Silsbee. While the Memorial High School team did not win, Anderson said it was all about the beginning experience.

“Basically, kids built robots and programmed them to perform certain tasks,” he said. “One of them was moving objects from one place to another, commanding the robot to follow directions and things of that nature. I am proud of how we did, even if we didn’t place. It was a very good learning experience for all of us.”

For senior Hien Truong, the competition was more than fun, but a chance to flex his skills as a future instrumentation technician.

An arena is a space used to teach robots how to pick up and distribute different colored checkers. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

“What I liked about the competition was being able to meet new people and experience how to command the robots,” he said. “Plus it was fun and as seniors we were able to help start something new.”

Senior Ariana Toson said she enjoyed learning the operations behind a robot.

“It was cool to be able to learn how to code,” she said. “I want to be a technician so learning how to program and command a robot teaches those skills.”

Anderson said he wants to thank PAISD members and administration, including Superintendent Mark Porterie, CATE Director Timothy Tremont and Memorial Principal Glenn Mitchell, for helping kick start the program.

Memorial High School senior Phong Nguyen competed in the CATE buildings first robotics competition two weeks ago. 

“Education is our first thing, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure that our kids have a chance to be successful once they leave here, whether they are going to college or to the workforce,” he said. “Robotics is one of those ways to add something extra to help our kids make it.”

Robotics will be offered as a class starting next fall.