“For me, it's incredible to look back at what the organization has accomplished this year,” said Kimball Robotics Head Coach, Kevin Kieke.
From our small beginnings 10 years ago with one team and three students, to a program today that now includes 12 teams, six elementary teams and six MS/HS teams, our program is servicing over 80 students in Kimball Area Public School District.
Kimball participates in the VEX Robotics platform. VEX is the fastest growing robotics program in the world with over 20,000 competition teams and millions of engaged students. Unlike other robotics platforms that focus only on competitive robotics, VEX also engages on the educational aspects of robotics as part of a STEM curriculum in thousands of schools across the world, including Kimball.
Recently I was asked, “Realistically, how many students could be involved in our robotics program?” My answer was, “How many students are in the district?”
Robotics is not just for the “smart kids” or the “college bound” students or the “gear heads.” There are so many opportunities for students to learn and grow within the framework of robotics that I truly believe that we have a place for everyone.
For example, this year one of our goals is to grow our community presence. We will do this by enhancing our social media presence. We want to ensure a monthly newspaper article in the TCN, as well as a monthly newsletter mailed or hand delivered to our sponsors. Thus, I am looking for students who have or want to grow skills in these areas to become part of our team.
Another example is at competitions as there are really two competitions taking place. One competition is what people see when they walk into the gym. Four robots completing the game task. This is what many students excel at to make that championship round and leave with “hardware.” But, in the background is a parallel competition for the “judged awards.” These awards are actually treated with higher regard than the robot competition awards. Judges are circulating through the pits observing and interviewing the teams looking at the attributes of Teamwork, Sportsmanship, Creativity, Innovation, Critical Thinking and Professionalism to name a few. The judges then deliberate to choose the winners of various awards culminating in the highest award, the”Excellence” award.
We want and need students with these skills to continue to make our program grow and flourish.
Due to the many engaged parents and volunteers, we have been able to expand our program offerings to include "VEX GO." VEX GO is targeted at 3rd and 4th grade students. It teaches the fundamentals of robotics through fun, hands-on activities that help young students perceive robotics in a fun and positive way. This program is facilitated through Kimball Area Community Education. With the dedication of volunteer parent coaches Nick Ouke, Andrew Freeman and Jackie Helgeson, 36 Kimball elementary students participated in the GO program this past school year.
Our Vex IQ program also runs through Kimball Area Community Education. Led by head coach Mike Kunkel and assistant coaches Myles Durga, Andrew Freeman, and Allysa Merten, this program is for our 5th and 6th grade students. In just its third season, we are serving over 20 students. Our IQ teams enjoyed many awards throughout the year culminating with all six teams earning invitations to the State Championships in February. Our IQ students did a great job this year and look forward to continued growth and success.
At the Middle School and High School level (7th-12th grade), we have six teams competing with VEX EDR. Our teams are compiled of great students and we look forward to continued success.
This year we sent all six MS and HS teams to the Minnesota State Robotics Championships and two of our Kimball teams advanced to the VEX World Championships, as noted earlier. The VEX EDR program is coached by Kevin Kieke, Mike Kunkel and Matt Lindberg.
Another accomplishment worth noting is… because of huge community support of our "little" Kimball community and program, we are able to host the largest single-day Vex Robotics tournament in the state. This year the tournament was held on January 29 with 121 teams competing in grade levels 4-12. The only tournament larger in the state is the State Championships, which is a multi-day event. This is only possible because of the support we get from the parents, school and community to help fill over 100 volunteer jobs to make the event a success. The tournament next year will be held on Saturday, January 28, at the Kimball Area High School. If you are interested in getting involved, feel free to contact Kevin Kieke.
The ultimate purpose of our program is to expose students to Robotics, Automation and grow life skills. One hundred percent of our Kimball Robotics Alumni have gone on to careers in Automation, Manufacturing and Engineering, to name a few.
The high school program meets two or three evenings a week from 6:00-8:00 pm at the high school, giving our students the opportunity to participate in other sports and activities. Our elementary programs (VEX IQ & GO) are facilitated through Community Ed and generally meet for practices directly after school.
Our 2022-23 season kick-off event will be held on Wednesday, June 29, at 6:30 pm in the Wirth Gym at the high school. Park in the south lot and enter through Door #10.
If you or your student are unsure if Robotics is something you want to try, come on June 29 and “just check us out.” If you have any questions about the Kimball Robotics program or if you want to get involved, feel free to contact Kevin Kieke at (320) 293-2328. Go Cubs!