Struthers students build robots in class - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Struthers students build robots in class

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STRUTHERS, Ohio -

There's been a robotics explosion for high school kids the last few years with competitions all over the place. Struthers High School is taking the next step, programming and building every day inside the classroom.

Walk into Mr. Donatelli's class at Struthers High School any day of the week and there's something happening in just about every square inch of the room; students, all busy building robots.

"It's not like any other traditional classes we have. It's a problem-solving class and it deals with a lot of engineering," said Struthers senior AJ Iarussi.

The class is called "Vex Robotics." Students design, program, and build robots themselves, all geared toward specific challenges with and competitions both close to home and potentially worldwide.

"What they have to do for this competition is they have to build a robot able to pick up weighted cones and lightweight cones and stack them," said teacher Mike Donatelli. "Then basically it's two minutes and 30 seconds against other schools to try and get the most points you can in different scoring zones."

The class exists thanks to a $10,000 gift from the Struthers School Foundation, one of several projects the foundation's funded recently. All of them are geared toward getting students ready for the future.

"I think we're not just looking at a class but we're looking at preparing students for a career, when you look at the way automation is going with robots and coding," said Struthers superintendent Pete Pirone.

"We see this as cutting edge," said Struthers School Foundation president Dan Mamula. "We wanted to go one step farther than what the school board typically can afford."

The result: kids learning how to take an idea and turn it into something real.

"They actually get to see a working product that they designed basically against other people and other parts of the state, and if they're fortunate enough to qualify for different parts, you can go onto world competitions against kids from other countries," said Donatelli.

And just because they're taking the class doesn't mean they have to have a future in robotics or engineering. A lot of the things they're learning like teamwork and problem-solving can translate in just about any field.

"I don't think it's necessarily just dealing with robots. I think it's anything where you're going to have a trial and error situation, you gotta fix something," said Iarussi.

"Everyone has to work together to make one robot," said senior Robert Ruble. "If you're not on a team you're not going to get it finished, because you need different perspectives from different people to figure out a problem."

It's lessons like those that make this first-year class "stack up" pretty well against the competition.

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