Cold Spring robotics coach David Petty believes his five teams are ready for the upcoming Robotics State Championship on Saturday, March 25 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The noise, enthusiasm and students in the school’s media room — home for the robotics program — are at all-time highs. The room may get crowded from time to time, with as many as 10% of Cold Spring’s 420 students taking turns building and assembling robots.
Cold Spring, a member of the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) portfolio of schools, is an environmental studies and Indiana STEM-certified academic facility located adjacent to Marian University. Cold Spring also has a partnership with Marian University.
“You will find our kids in here on recess, on their lunch hours, and then practicing after school a couple times a week,” said Petty, who is an environmental science and robotics teacher and the school’s athletic director. “We just open the doors and the students come here to work on their projects. And we are here as long as they want to be.”
Petty coaches the teams with his wife Genevieve McLeish-Petty, who teaches computer science and robotics at the school.
She attributes the success at Cold Spring to the hard work and dedication of the students. “The kids are awesome,” said McLeish-Petty. “The kids are amazing. They just let us be a part of it.”
Saturday’s competition runs from 7:30 a.m. to about 6 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium. e event is free and open to the public. It’s the largest state championship in the country, attracting about 350 robotics teams from elementary, middle and high schools across Indiana.
The competition provides an opportunity for visitors of all ages to experience Indiana’s best robotics teams competing for the state championship and find out who will earn their way to the world championship in Dallas, Texas.
Petty believes his five teams stand a solid chance of coming away with a few more trophies to add to the dozens on display in the school’s main hallway. “The state championships are always a pressure-filled event,” Petty said. “There is lots of noise and that puts a lot of pressure on our students. That is why we find the kids to drive the robot who can handle that. One wrong move and you can make a mistake easily.”
Petty began his career with the school’s robotics team eight years ago and has helped lead the program to the world championships the last seven years.
The robotics program started when the school received a grant through theTechPoint Foundation for Youth State Robotics Initiative that allowed them to purchase a robotics kit and get teacher training for the program.
Robotics allows youngsters to develop problem-solving skills, according to Petty, who points out that when students work to build and then program robots, they develop the courage to continue through mistakes.
According to Petty, students learn to address errors and solve problems as they pop up.
In developing the success of the Cold Spring program, Petty has also worked with beginning programs around the state to help expand the sport.
“I think robotics is something that is going to be around for a long time,” Petty said. “The games change every year, and it never gets stale. But the key is winning. Winning breeds winning. We are here to help any school in IPS that wants to start up a program. We will connect them with the right people and show them how to build a successful program. From our own experience, once you have that first success, it catches fire, and everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Watch a video about Cold Spring’s robotics program at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noAn-Q-lBeY