Dr. Christine Johns

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Monthly Archives: May 2013


UCS sets international standards in robotics

We are proud that Utica Community Schools has been recognized locally as a leader in robotics and the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education.

That reputation has now gone international.

Recently, our school district was able to celebrate not one but four groups of UCS students who earned entry into international robotics tournaments. The invitations were based on exceptional performance against their peers at regional and statewide competitions.

This international recognition is a reflection of the real-world experiences that are created in our classrooms to support STEM education. Our students’ success is rooted in programs that require collaboration and the types of skills that employers identify as critical for the high-paying jobs of the future.

The promotion of these skills is critical to not only our students, but also to the future of our region. Recently, Macomb County officials released a report that looks at the future growth of our area and how education is critical in supporting economic development.

The report concludes that future jobs, particularly in our region, will require candidates who are highly skilled in such areas as engineering and advanced manufacturing. It also found that the ticket to these fields and our region’s future will be education.

While state officials discuss the need for greater involvement of businesses in schools, UCS has a rich history of creating those links. Recently, more than 2,000 sixth graders sat down with business leaders at our 20th annual Career Focus luncheon. The students created digital resumes that allowed business leaders to help guide them in the importance of planning and post-secondary experiences. They even provided business cards with a QR code to their resumes.

Another example is the annual car show, where engineers from Detroit’s big three automakers show off concept cars and bring the design process to life for our secondary students.

In robotics, our teams work hand in hand with industry leaders to create a real-world understanding of complex systems and programming.

Our international success shows the importance of these partnerships:

  • The ThunderChickens are once again participating in the international FIRST tournament after being part of the winning team at the state competition. This team has made it to the international FIRST tournament a remarkable 13 out of 14 years and has twice won the international title.
  • The district’s second robotics team – Crevolution –also qualified for the international FIRST tournament. The team played this year with a greater sense of purpose, as students are honoring a young mentor who passed way this season. The students have dedicated their season to Mr. Mays Overton and have named their robot after him.
  • A team of UCS students recently competed in the world championship of the annual VEX Robotics competition. The team qualified into the international competition after earning the best finish of teams participating at a state tournament. Using the VEX Robotics Design System, the competition requires students to design, build and program robots, then work together to obtain the most points possible on the challenge field. In total, the UCS team earned five trophies from the three regional events and state tournament in Vex Robotics tournament.
  • Finally, a combined elementary and junior high school team competed in St. Louis in the First Lego League World Festival Tournament. The Crazy Pizza People team is comprised of students from Malow and Crissman Elementary and earned a second place finish for Project Research at the international level. This team originally qualified for the national tournament after earning the highest overall score out of every other Michigan Lego robotics program.

    One common thread in all of these achievements is the commitment of every key member of this school community. The teams involve businesses leaders, parents as coaches and partners, and staff members who serve as advisors or provide the instructional base for the projects.

    Thanks to these teams, UCS students are now setting international standards for robotics. Their achievements indicate that UCS is well ahead of the curve when it comes to positioning our students for future high paying jobs.

    It also demonstrates that UCS students will be the ones driving the future economic success of our region, state and country.