EDITORIAL: PHS robotics team deserves recognition for achievements


Our hearty congratulations go to Powell High School’s Team 3188 (also known as Squiggle Splat Bang) for the team’s outstanding performance at the world robotics tournament. 

In April, the team — comprised of Alan Merritt, Hattie Pimentel, Rhett Pimentel and Nathaniel Whitham — became the first Powell robotics team to advance from a super regional tournament to compete in a world tournament.

Team 3188 won the Judges’ Award and placed 14th in its division at the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship, held last month in Houston, Texas, and Rhett Pimentel received the Dean’s List Award — one of only 10 awarded worldwide each year.

The team is coached by Allen Griffin and mentored by Rick and Judith LaPlante, Troy Pimentel and Ladell Merritt. We salute the efforts of those volunteer leaders as well.

The robotics program, an extracurricular activity at Powell High School, provides youth an opportunity to use their creativity, intelligence and problem-solving skills to come up with robotic designs to meet specified requirements.

The team’s accomplishments go far beyond winning awards and recognition. They prepare them for life and employment in a world that is becoming more technologically complex every day.

While these students are working with robotics, they’re also learning important skills in science, technology, engineering and math — STEM skills, as they’re often referred to today.

In an article about today’s job market, Forbes reported last month that 14 of the 50 best jobs in the country today are STEM related.

The article pointed out that there are four open positions in computer and mathematical science for every person seeking those types of jobs, and USA Today predicts that, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million more software development jobs than applicants available to fill them.

“The biggest change today from many years ago is that tech skills are in demand in all types of businesses,” the Forbes article states.

Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, told the publication that, “The proliferation of technology-related jobs is due to those skills now being needed at businesses that don't consider themselves traditional tech companies”

Consider, for instance, technological changes in agriculture. Today’s top tractors are guided by GPS, or global positioning systems; they practically drive themselves. Growers also are beginning to use unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to monitor their fields.

Drones are being put to use by businesses as well, such as companies that use them to monitor construction projects. And, increasingly, other types of equipment, large and small, are being operated remotely.

In fact, it’s difficult to find an area of our lives that isn’t affected by advances in technology, from the tablets and computers in our homes, offices and classrooms to the smartphones in our purses or pockets.

Our cars, televisions and appliances are computerized. Security, heating and lighting systems in many homes operate on computers.

As time goes on, the use of technology will only increase, and so will the number of jobs that require training in STEM skills.

Teaching robotics is one way Powell schools — elementary, middle school and high school — are preparing students for tomorrow’s jobs today.

Over the years, Powell’s successful robotics teams have proven time and again that they’re learning their lessons.

This year, Team 3188 used some extra ingenuity to design custom parts for their robot with equipment at the Powell Makerspace.

Judges made note of that additional effort when they presented the team with the Judges’ Award.

Gov. Matt Mead — who has repeatedly advocated for attracting high-tech jobs and industries to help diversify Wyoming’s economy — also recognized Team 3188’s achievements by visiting with team members at the competition in Houston.

We love to see activities that interest and challenge Powell’s youth and prepare them for the future. The robotics program certainly does all those things, and it helps them develop innovative thought processes and problem-solving skills that will benefit them throughout their personal and professional lives.

That is something worth celebrating.