KCC’s Bruin-Bots robotics team advances to state finals

KCC’s Bruin-Bots. Photo courtesy of photographer Daniel Ernst.

After finishing fifth in a qualifying regional event earlier this month, Kellogg Community College’s FIRST robotics competition team, the Bruin-Bots, will compete in the West Michigan Championship state finals tournament in Holland on Saturday, Dec. 15.

The event will be held at Harbor Lights Middle School, 1024 136th Ave., and is free and open to the public.

This is the first year of competition for the team, which began practicing at KCC’s Regional Manufacturing Technology Center in October. The group, made up of around 20 area youths in the sixth through ninth grades, uses real-world STEM concepts to design, build and program robots as a way to develop problem-solving and team-building skills.

Robb Cohoon, an adjunct instructor at KCC and coach of the Bruin-Bots, said the team is excited for the upcoming competition and he thinks their chances are pretty good for qualifying for the national finals in April.

“They’re working hard,” Cohoon said of the group. “They’re more focused now. They have some experience with the competition and they realize it’s going to take hard work.”

During FIRST robotics competitions, teams use the robots they designed and built to remove a series of rings from one rack and place them on a second rack. The team that succeeds in moving the most rings in a given amount of time wins.

In addition to learning practical skills, participation with in FIRST robotics competitions also qualifies youths to apply for related college scholarships, and according to Cohoon the program can give participants interested in a career in robotics a leg up on pursuing that path in the future.

“It gives them the opportunity to hone their mechanical skills and make themselves a better candidate” for jobs and college programs, Cohoon said.

The Bruin-Bots program is just one initiative at KCC that provides a clearer career path to individuals interested in the growing field of robotics. The college currently offers three Industrial Robotics Program options, including a certificate and two associate degrees.

Laura McGuire, director of the RMTC, said there are currently more job openings for individuals with a background in robotics than there are people to fill them. She said the field of robotics – which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says offers median annual earnings of $46,310 – offers graduates viable careers that parents should encourage their children to look into.

“Bruin-Bots is a great project because it really lets students know how important computers and computer technology are to the industrial trades and to manufacturing,” McGuire said. “And we really want to expose kids to that fact and get more kids interested in these careers.”

KCC will celebrate the Bruin-Bots’ accomplishments to date with an End of Season Celebration from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, at the RMTC. Refreshments will be served to participants, parents, sponsors and guests, and KCC President Dr. Dennis Bona will present each participant with a certificate.

For more information about the Bruin-Bots, contact KCC’s Lifelong Learning Department at 269-965-4134. Click here for more information about the team from a post on this blog.