Robotics team moves learning into real world

Daniel McCorbie (center) demonstrates a prosthetic hand he produced as a member of the Sequoyah High robotics team.
Daniel McCorbie (center) demonstrates a prosthetic hand he produced as a member of the Sequoyah High robotics team.

Last year, Sequoyah High in Canton joined the ranks of other schools around the state that field a robotics team. Though only in its second season, the group of about 22 students has quickly moved from classroom concepts to competitions and, most recently, philanthropy.

When veteran computer science teacher Brent Hollers started teaching at Sequoyah last year, he couldn’t have predicted the speed at which the group has evolved from classroom skills to practical and helpful applications.

“The team is applying computer programming skills they study in third year and a lot of the basic applications from freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “The team also has a mentorship program so older kids are teaching the younger ones how to put things together.”

Team members are also employing mechanical and mathematical applications critical to computer-aided design. But the opportunities to participate go beyond STEM skills.

“We have social media accounts and a business plan, so there are other, non-technical aspects to being on the team beyond just building a robot,” said Hollers. “It gets kids involved and thinking about real ways to pursue STEM pathways.”

Senior Daniel McCorbie has been instrumental in expanding the team’s activities beyond after-school meetings and competitions. The Eagle Scout was looking for a project when he learned about e-Nable, a global volunteer network that uses 3D printers to make free or low-cost prosthetic devices for adults and children.

“The gears started working in my head,” said McCorbie. “I saw something I could use my skills on. It took about four months to get certified on different devices and to start a social media site to become an e-Nable chapter.”

McCorbie completed the required assignments to establish a Sequoyah chapter, and it wasn’t long before the students were putting their robotics skills to specific use. He led workshops to show fellow students and younger members of his scout troop how the robotic prosthetics could work. And through e-Nable, he custom-designed a device for an Alabama man who had lost fingers. Team members are now wrapping up work on an arm for a local man and filling requests from individuals in India, Australia and Germany.

“The whole point of prosthetics is to help people, and it’s inspired me to pursue bio-mechanical engineering,” said McCorbie.

The students are now taking on a new role. After learning that e-Nable needed a home for its store of prosthetics, they volunteered to be the caretakers.

“This is another great learning opportunity around inventory management,” said Hollers. “That’s pretty cool.”

Information about Sequoyah High is online at cherokeek12.net/sequoyahhs.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.

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