Funding the future

Donation will keep local robotics club solvent

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Gary Tipton had a passion for technology, one that he advocated for during his time on the Camas School Board.

After he died from pancreatic cancer in 2008, his wife, Mary Tipton, made a donation in his memory to support the Camas-Washougal High School Robotics Team.

When the students received the material to build their robots for the 2011-12 season, they were curious as to the donor.

After mentor Bruce Whitefield received permission to tell them, the students decided to name their robots Gary and Tipton in his honor.

“It was such a nice thing that they did,” Tipton said. “It was such a nice gesture on their part.”

Tipton, who was appointed to fill Gary’s School Board position, recalls making the donation after his passing.

“At that time, the robotics team was looking for donations and I thought it fit in perfectly with what Gary cared about the most,” Tipton said. “He was always speaking up for it at board meetings. He would have been proud to see the dedication and commitment these kids have.”

Whitefield said the students felt it was a good idea to name the robots in Gary Tipton’s honor, since the materials to create them were purchased using monies from his memorial fund.

“The team happened to be building two different robots at the time for the annual “Bunnybots” competitions so (they) came to be named Gary and Tipton,” he said.

The Bunnybots competition took place last month at Catlin Gabel school in Portland. One of the robots, Tipton, was the winner out of 23 teams.

“At the competitions no team can win on their own,” Whitefield said. “In order win they must establish an alliance with two other teams. At this competition, Tipton was the top qualifying robot so our students were able to form an alliance with two other robots from Team 1540, Catlin Gabel. It was this alliance which went on to win the elimination rounds.”

The team is a For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (F.I.R.S.T.) team for Camas and Washougal high schools. They compete in F.I.R.S.T. competitions throughout the year. It is student-led with adult mentors to help inspire students to learn about science, technology and business. The team is financially supported by private and corporate sponsors, with the students essentially running a small, high tech company.

Last year, the team qualified to compete at the national competition in St. Louis, Mo.

Mary Tipton and Gary’s mother, Gwen, attended the Bunnybots competition.

“Bruce Whitefield was great about explaining how everything worked and it was fascinating,” Mary said. “The finals were incredible. It was great just to see those robots performing.”

Henry Midles, A Camas High School senior and team captain, said the robotics team was unlike any experience he’s had in school.

“My favorite aspect of being on the team is working in an environment that I learn so much applicable information from,” he said. “In a typical school environment, its just lectures on things that most people will not use, or remember. But with robotics, we learn how to use tools and solve problems, we learn how to work with people we do not like. We learn how to communicate with the press, and write grants. We learn how to keep track of money, and keep up with a very tight deadline during the build season. It’s like running a business, and almost every skill is important in any future career.”

Team member Natalie Johnson, a CHS senior, said she was excited when Tipton won the Bunnybots competition, and that Mary Tipton was there to see it.

“It shows how successful we can be,” she said. “Also, it’s a big thank you to our sponsors. Seeing them at the competition shows how much they support our team.”