The Winters junior high school Robotics class was created about 10 years ago and has been a popular class for students. Monte Angel is the teacher and has brought the program a great deal of success and recognition. Angel mentors the participants and helps them find success through their own self-confidence, a trait he nurtures in each student.

  Angel isn’t a man to talk about himself and his own accomplishments as he brags on the students and their hard work. One team has qualified for the state competition after placing 2nd in the area competition. But first the students will compete at an invitational competition at the San Angelo Stock Show and rodeo.

  Qualifying for state is no small feat as Angel points out, “The area tournament had 110 teams and the girls who placed 2nd, although in junior high, competed in the high school division. It’s really neat to watch them compete in the tournaments.”

  The robotics program, under Angel’s guidance, improves each year and is a source of pride for the school and small west Texas town. Angel has always put the students first watched them become competent problem solvers and overcome adversity. Angel says that not all of the students compete at the competitions but everyone gets something out of the program, “We’ve had success over the years and the kids are excited about it. Everybody gets to come in who wants to.”

  Students Taelyn Doty, Shelby Santos and Rylee Sanchez who named their team, “Team ChickenNagoots”, took second at the area competition. Doty says that it was a challenge but that the team worked together to solve the problems, “We worked on it for 3 or 4 months. It was challenging and there were stressful times but we worked it all out. It’s been a lot of fun.”

  The competitions are not based on the size of the school as all schools from 1A to 6A compete at the same event. The competitions are unlike any other in that each tournament is broken down into 3 two-minute sessions. But before that, each competitor is presented with a 20-page open-ended problem that they must solve, “You either solve the problem or you don’t,” Angel says as I talk to students in the program. Angel points out that during the competition the students are not allowed to have a coach the room and are not allowed coaching of any manner, “They have problems that they have to solve themselves. It’s just them. They are true innovators that have to think on their feet and what makes them successful is their ability to problem-solve.”  

  Preparing for the competitions requires many hours in the lab as the students build and program their robots. They must work to solve that 20-page problem. It’s no easy task but the students who compete spend a lot of time studying and working together as a team, “It teaches them that hard work does pay off,” Monte comments while we look over some of the robots the kids built. Their work is impressive, to say the least. Each robot in the lab is constructed in a different configuration and each one has a “brain” that the kids program. Small electric motors drive the robots as they perform the programmed actions.

  The time invested by the students is considerable. They use logic to solve problems, reading and comprehension to understand the 20-page open-ended problem, mathematics and programming. And just as importantly they learn teamwork as they listen to and respect each other’s input on how to solve the problem as they work together towards the common goal of winning competitions. It’s confidence in their respective work and a desire to succeed that pushes the students to compete at higher levels, such as the junior high students competing at the high school level.

  The future of robotics in Winters is bright and Angel’s teaching and guidance that allows the students to problem solve and build self-confidence is the heart of the program. With each team member’s ideas given consideration and encouraged it makes students stronger and allows them to examine multiple options to address the problem. A group of students in junior high, competing at the high school level and taking 2nd place out of 40 entrants, is commendable. Each of the students on the team that placed 2nd in the area competition and headed to state had the highest individual scores and second highest team score at the area competition.