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St. Helens robotics club launches campaignof community fundraisers

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Students prepare business plans and seek sponsorship funds from community


SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Members of the St. Helens Robotics and Engineering Club pose for a photo after winning the Pacific Northwest Regional Championships in March. The club is launching a new fundraising project this month to help pay for competition fees for the upcoming season.The St. Helens Robotics and Engineering Club at St. Helens High School has launched a fundraising campaign to help pay $25,000 the club faces in competitions costs.

Fresh off an unprecedented appearance at the FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis this spring, and after winning the Pacific Northwest Regional Championships, the club is reaching out to the community to garner support for its upcoming building and competition season, which begins in January.

FIRST is a nonprofit organization designed to inspire young people to pursue science and technology opportunities by hosting robotics challenges across the country.

Club mentors Neil Ford, a chemistry and pre-engineering teacher at St. Helens High, and Sharon Shiel, a club mentor and instructional assistant at McBride Elementary School, helped students launch a sponsorship drive by making personal presentations to businesses in the community on Thursday, Nov. 10.

“Both groups enjoyed many opportunities throughout the day to talk about the high school Robotics program, about their trip to Worlds in St. Louis last spring, and share their excitement about a new season of designing, building, programming and competing with a new robot,” Shiel stated in an email to the Spotlight.

Last year the club, which is identified by the acronym “SHREC,” which stands for “St. Helens Robotics and Engineering Club,” and uses the Dreamworks Pictures cartoon of the ogre “Shrek” as its mascot, primarily relied on fundraisers like car washes, doughnut and beef jerky sales, and general donations from community members and small businesses.

Seeking tiered levels of sponsorship is a different form of fundraising for the club, one students have been working to put together since the start of the school year in September. Students prepared by drafting an in-depth business plan, including a detailed business presentation outlining club activies and costs associated with competing in FIRST Robotics, which can exceed $25,000.

One week after launching the sponsorship campaign, the club has secured $1,600. Jade Kearsley, a sophomore on the team, said the fundraising also gives students a chance to showcase their activities — several sponsorship levels include a brief demonstration with the club’s functioning competition robot.

“A big part of FIRST, in general, is to show your community what you’re learning,” Kearsley said.

Many returning members expect the group to grow this year, bringing club membership into the mid-20s. The team’s largest expense is the $10,900 FIRST registration fee for competitions, followed by competition travel, parts and materials expenses.

While the club expects to receive $13,000 in grants, the goal is to collect $6,000 pledged sponsorships before Thursday, Dec. 1, from businesses.