Oconomowoc Area School District - The accolades keep coming for Silver Lake Intermediate (SLI) School's robotics teams.
At the Upper Midwest Regional contest held earlier this month in Appleton, the school distinguished itself in several areas against 80 high school and middle school teams.
In addition to three of the school's teams qualifying to complete at the world championship this spring, one of the teams, The FIVE, competed in the high school division and won the Engineering Excellence award as well as tournament championship. The team finished first in driver skills and second in programming skills.
Team Metal Strikerz finished second in the tournament and was awarded the Engineering Excellence award in the middle school division; 7 Gears made it to the quarterfinals; Brain Bots won the Create Award for the inventive design and progressed to the middle school finals; Robot Blasters went to the semifinals and received the Programming Skills Award, besting all of the schools at the competition with a score of 100.
SLI Principal Ellyn Helberg was proud of one recognition in particular.
"SLI Robotics was honored with a special Air Force Award. Members of the Air Force awarded the best whole program at the tournament with a special award that honors teamwork and overall excellence. In this highly competitive and large tournament, all five teams from SLI were announced as the winners of this award. We congratulate all of the SLI teams for being such fantastic ambassadors of Silver Lake," she said.
School Board member and robotics mentor Dave Guckenberger agreed.
"The FIVE has qualified for the world championships a total of eight times already this year. They have competed in six regional events this year and were tournament champions in four of them," he explained.
"They say that success breeds success. That statement is alive and well in Oconomowoc, as two other teams have qualified for the world championships. The results from (the Upper Midwest Regional) shows that Oconomowoc has one of the premier robotics programs in the state," Guckenberger said.
"I love doing this. I work side by side with some of the nicest and smartest children in the district," he added. "I am convinced that each of the teams representing Oconomowoc at the National Championships and the World Championships will be excellent ambassadors for their school and their city," he added.
CSLI sixth-grade teacher Colleen Hoyne has been working with the robotics program for the last three years.
Hoyne said student interest in the program has grown so much that the Explorer Club was added.
Students are selected for teams on the basis of a written essay and application process.
Winning the Air Force Award was significant, Hoyne said.
"The whole school was recognized for the way they help each other and the program as a whole," she added.
Hoyne noted that throughout the competition, teams are randomly paired with others to work together.
"What's really cool for me to see is they have to be able to cooperate and work with kids in all different age ranges, so you have fifth-graders working with seniors in high school. Their maturity and leadership skills are really impressive to see," she said.
Two of the school's teams will compete in the world championship, and a third has qualified but has not decided if it will compete.
"It's a huge cost," Hoyne said. "The cost is estimated to be $1,000 a student. There is a $750 registration fee, which the district pays, but teams have to fundraise on their own to cover travel expenses and to ship the robot," she explained.
"Some of the teams are fundraising right now to represent Oconomowoc at the national and world championships," Guckenberger agreed.
The world competition will be held in Anaheim, Calif., April 18-20.
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