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North Marion robotics: a club where you build robots, make friends, and 'bring the party'

COURTESY PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Students from the Middle School and the High School gathered for the first Robotics Club meeting of the school year on Sept. 19. Why should students join Robotics Club?

Well, for one thing, a robot is a car, so participants are at the wheel before they even have a driver's license.

"It's fun: driving the robot, building it, programming it," North Marion High School sophomore Christopher Perea-Vega said.

Students who are interested in maneuvering a robot and who are at North Marion Middle School or High School can join. New members will be just in time to face off against North Marion's foes (a.k.a. other school teams) during the first tournament of the year on October 29 at Sandy High School. At the competition, students will showcase how well they operate the robot that they built and programmed.

High school Robotics Club Adviser Sherie Moran said that the deadline to join the club comes a long while after that event, Dec. 1. Yet, she'd love some newcomers as soon as possible, as she lost several club members after graduation last year and would like at least one other team of four students. In fact, she already has high hopes for the club's growth and programming prowess.

"I'm super excited to see more kids involved," Moran said. "It's going to be a good year."

There's plenty of room for more team members! Moran and middle school Robotics Club Adviser Craig Johnston currently have five teams. Johnston launched his school's club last school year, and just this fall, he and Moran brought their clubs together to practice at the high school robotics lab.

"The white knuckles, I'm just trying to hold on," Johnston said, of, evidently, handling a Robotics Club at Moran's swift, practiced pace. "I'm just trying to get in the right gear to roll alongside her."

Happily for Johnston, the advisers will be working together and so will their team members, although not always on the same team. Moran clarified that a middle school student may join a high school team, although a high school student cannot join a middle school team.

Why else should students sign up?

Yet, besides the obvious appeal of driving simulations, why should a student join any robotics club? A big part of it is the people.

Perea Vega said that he had free time and was curious about the 'bots when he signed up as a freshman. But what made him stay were his teammates, his friends.

"I didn't know Jake at first," Perea Vega said, glancing at one of his two teammates, adding that "he was in a corner."

After they heard that statement, his 1812Z teammates, seniors Jake McDonald and Ty Bettinger, paused in their efforts to sort through some robot parts (envision a metal Erector Set).

"I was most definitely not in a corner; I was working on my team," McDonald said, pretending to be offended.

For this year's team, McDonald and Bettinger explained that they already have a title for their robot, The Throngler. They immediately launched into definitions of "throng" after divulging the unusual name.

"It's not supposed to make sense," Bettinger clarified. "It's supposed to sound funny."

"We bring the party," McDonald added of the team's humorous nature (and the robot's unusual name). Besides making jokes with his friends in robotics clubs, McDonald says he relishes the challenge his competitors offer during a tournament.

So does eighth-grader Karim Perea Vega, whose brother is on Team 1812Z.

"I'm pretty competitive," Karim Perea Vega said. He added that he didn't join the club because of his brother but has his own interest in robotics. On the first day, they'd just started building their 'bot, so Perea Vega said that they didn't have a name for it yet.

However, his teammate, eighth-grader Dezmond Swank, disagreed, saying their creation's name would be Champion. The team's name, Champions, appeared on the whiteboard behind Moran's desk soon after.

"I'm the captain," Swank said.

"I identify as a capybara," rejoined Perea Vega, grinning cheerfully after declaring himself to have a kinship with a two-foot tall rodent that lives in South America and is known for its friendly, laid-back nature.

Whatever the students' titles or team names are, the four teams of the Robotics Club are ready for whatever lies ahead, whether that will be driving, building, programming, or joking around about giant rodents and all the other best parts of High School and Middle School that simply don't make sense. They're just fun and funny, just like all of the brightest parts of life.

For information about the Robotics Club, email Sherie Moran, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., at the high school or Craig Johnston at the middle school, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

To share stories on the North Marion School District, contact Communications Specialist Jillian Daley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-678-7138.

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