Kansas State Olathe sponsored student engineering team competes in regional robotics competition

Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016

OLATHE — Team Awesome Technical Difficulties, an Olathe-based fourth grade robotics team sponsored by Kansas State University Olathe and John Deere, are building robots and a reputation for being strong competitors.

The team placed 15th in the robot game at FIRST Lego League regional competition on Saturday, Jan. 16., at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri. Members competed in three matches that required building and programming Lego Mindstorms robots to complete missions related to this year's theme of "Trash Trek." They also were judged in the areas of project, robot design and core values and were considered for the Inspiration, Teamwork and Innovative Solution judging awards.

"I am extremely proud of the team and their performance," said Casee Eisele, a John Deere employee who coaches Team Awesome Technical Difficulties with David Eggers and Laurie Eggers.

In June 2015, Eisele approached Martha Nowak, program coordinator of K-12 education at Kansas State Olathe, about having the campus co-sponsor the team with John Deere. The eight-member team was quickly outgrowing their practice space in Eisele's basement. A partnership was started, and the team was given practice space at Kansas State Olathe for the season.

The partnership was a natural fit for Kansas State Olathe's efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, careers and K-12 education, Nowak said. Additionally, it helps address the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology projection that the U.S. will need 1 million more professionals in the STEM fields in the next decade in order for the nation to remain a leader in science and technology.

"As a graduate campus, we have to look at that workforce pipeline and the opportunities we have for it in the Greater Kansas City area," Nowak said. "In this case, it takes just one experience for a kid to think 'Wow! Engineering is what I want to do for the rest of my life.' It's also a neat perspective for us as a graduate campus to see young kids get excited about that future career."

FIRST Lego League is an international robotics competition for students ages 9-14 that is organized by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, and the Lego Group, which manufactures Lego toys. FIRST is affiliated with Johnson County 4-H through Comet Tech Club, a technology group, in Olathe, Kansas. The fourth grade team members also are members of the Johnson County Extension 4-H Youth Development Comet Tech Club.