TCEA Advanced Inventions Competition
It’s getting to be a common occurrence that we bring you an article heralding the success of students from Comanche High School. Today, we are in Mr. Eddy Parker’s classroom, a classroom that I’m sure to the casual eye looks completely chaotic and definitely unorganized, but to an old teacher like me, it looks exactly like the kind of place where genius is born!
It’s messy, a little dirty, and kids walk in the door with smiles on their faces while talking about their latest project or the new one they intend to build. It’s obvious to anyone who takes the time to look that they feel perfectly at home in this room, secure…and yes, loved by their teacher.
The beauty of Texansunited.com is that it affords us the space to tell “the rest of the story”…the story that is always there just under the surface anytime you are working with young people. Today’s story of four of Mr. Parker’s high school students is no different.
The first two of these kiddos that I would like to introduce to you are Ben Haught and Dakota Johnson. These two boys recently entered a robotics contest called Rubble Trouble, and the bottom line part of the story is that they came home with a 7th place win out of 15 entries. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s not the rest of the story.
Not knowing that I have been watching Dakota grow up for some years now, the rest of the class warned me not to be upset if Dakota didn’t talk to me a lot or if he didn’t smile at me much. “He doesn’t mean anything; he just doesn’t like to show a lot of emotion.”
Dakota doesn’t have to be overly social. He’s brilliant and, of course, I did not need anyone to tell me just how brilliant the young man actually is because I already knew that myself.
Ben is brilliant too, but Ben has his own problems. You see, Ben is autistic and if you know anything at all about autism, you know that change is not easy for autistic kiddos….and Ben has had a lot of change this year as his family left Arkansas to set up residence in Comanche. Everything, including the air he breathes, changed for Ben this year and that he was able to compete and do very, very well in this contest is amazing in itself!
So what was the contest?
The boys were given a problem, and they had to construct a robot that would solve it. This year the problem was based on the idea of search and rescue. The boys had to build a robot that could go into a collapsed building, look for survivors, and move whatever rubble was blocking the process without endangering lives.
According to Dakota, the boys built several robots that they used to practice on and then spent the last week before the contest constructing Bob the Robot.
“We programmed what we needed Bob to do into a computer and then connected him to the computer to get the right programming into him,” Ben told me. All Greek to me, you understand!
So Ben and Dakota constructed their robot, and on the day of the contest it demonstrated what it could do by moving checkers, the red being carried into a safe zone and the black taken elsewhere. The boys competed in three 2-minute rounds and as I said, came in 7th.
When I asked them if they felt that the time put into the project had been worthwhile, both answered in the affirmative.
“We not only gained engineering experience out of the contest, we also got to meet other students from other places who have the same interests,” Dakota told me.
Ben quickly jumped in,” This is the first time I have gotten to go to a robotics contest, and I got to see firsthand how they work. I also gained experience for when we go to other competitions.”
Pretty darned good explanation for a boy struggling with autism, wouldn’t you say?
Mr. Parker took two other students to Clyde to participate in the inventions contest, and Chloe Cole and Michael Foix will be going on to compete on the state level this April!
They too built a robot…well actually they built a robotic arm named Morpheus.
According to Michael, things actually did not go terribly smoothly for the two young inventors.
“We did not have the arm put together when we got there because the competition started an hour earlier than we knew. In fact, we painted Morpheus the night before thinking we would have plenty of time to circuit it that morning…”
Chloe, who looks much more like a beauty queen than an inventor, chimed in, “We went into the competition and while Michael gave them the lowdown on the robot, I was hooking up wires as fast as I could.”
“I was basically stalling, being a little humorous, and it did make them laugh. They knew that we were delayed and asking for forgiveness,” Michael smiled.
Dimpled smile or not, you understand that I couldn’t keep from handing out a slight lecture on the sin of procrastination!
Even with their tardiness and even though Chloe was still in her PJs (no time to change into the clothes she intended to wear), the amazing duo still pulled off a second place with their arm that was designed to help those with impaired motor function.
“Before I took this class, I had no idea how to build ANYTHING,” Chloe bubbled. “Like circuiting, I had no idea what that meant!
“Honestly, we thought we were taking a blow-off class,” Michael added. “But then we got into it, and we have learned so much! Even just going to the contest gave me such a sense of pride. I can look at Morpheus and know that I helped build that.”
And being the teacher that he is, Eddy Parker could not help weighing in, “Your only limitations are those that you create for yourself.”
And I’m here to testify that Eddy Parker creates no limitations…period. The world needs many, many more teachers just like him.