Teacher seeking help from the mechanically inclined for tech contest

By Tom Gilchrist
For The Advertiser

MAYVILLE — If you’re known to tinker, Alisha Vislosky wonders if you’ll help fine-tune Mayville Middle School’s new eighth-grade robotics program.

“I’m looking for community members who are experienced with engineering, or tinkering,” said Vislosky, who has begun teaching the eighth-grade robotics class that plans to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge, an international event challenging teams to design, build and program robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams.

“We’re interested in a playing field that’s more of a wood shop — something we can use as a place to practice, basically,” Vislosky told the Mayville Board of Education at its Feb. 11 meeting.

“Now our robots don’t fight — which our kids would absolutely love — but they do compete in different challenges, and the challenge is different every year,” Vislosky said. “(Competition officials) give you the parameters of the challenge and then you have a list of parts that you are legally allowed to use, and within those parameters you can create whatever it is that your group can come up with.”

Volunteers don’t have to be tinkerers — or engineers — to help the robotics program, funded in part by two grants totalling $1,645.



“If you just want to make some cupcakes for those awesome students who are building those robots — to come in and see what they’re doing — they would love that as well,” Vislosky said.

Volunteers may contact Vislosky by email at: vislosky@mayville.k12.mi.us. More information on the FIRST Tech Challenge is available at www.usfirst.org.

“I talked to the FIRST Tech Challenge people and they said if you have people who are just good with tinkering and can take a car apart, that they can come and help you,” Vislosky said. “Any type of mentality is a great resource.”

One of the goals is to teach students to learn to think like engineers, and to break down complex problems into simpler and solvable blocks, according to Vislosky. In addition, Vislosky said she hopes to teach students to “see failure as an essential opportunity to learn rather than as a judgment upon their ability.”

“I explained to the students that if they can explain why something is not working, that’s actually worth more than them assembling something and not understanding why it works,” Vislosky said.

Students competing in the FIRST Tech Challenge — especially girls — are more likely to become engineers, according to Vislosky.

Mayville’s robotics course occurs each weekday in the same room as Vislosky’s graphic design course. Vislosky teaches students in both courses.

“We’re actually really lucky, because all the other (area) robotics teams are just clubs that meet after school,” Vislosky said. “We actually have a huge advantage in that I see those robotics students every day, whereas the other teams see (a robotics teacher) once or twice a week.”

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