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CloverBots robotics club at Prairie High School earns $10,000 award

The Columbian
Published: September 24, 2022, 5:03am

SUNNYSIDE — Students across the Battle Ground School District who are interested in robotics, engineering, design and technology will benefit from a $10,000 grant awarded to the CloverBots program run by Prairie High School photography teacher Todd Ferris, a former engineer who came out of retirement to teach. The CloverBots 3674 program was chosen out of dozens of applicants for the annual Pegasus Award, given by Saxton Bradley Inc., a company based in Kent that designs furniture for schools around the country.

CloverBots is a club that accepts students from across the district. Last school year was the first time since the start of the pandemic that students were able to work together in person on building a robot for the FIRST Robotics competition. They ended up finishing second in the regional competition at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

Battle Ground Public Schools offers nearly 500 career and technical education courses each year to middle and high school students across the district. The courses span nearly every industry, from engineering and automotive technology to welding and culinary arts, and give students the opportunity to try various career paths. In higher-level career and technical education courses, students can earn college credit and learn the same skills that they’d have to pay to learn in college.

Ferris and lead program mentor Scott Femling, also a retired engineer, said they hope to use the $10,000 award to continue rebuilding the CloverBots program.

Femling said their goal is to keep the size of the team relatively small so that students get to experience all aspects of designing a robot, from computer-aided design to milling, electronics, programming, assembly and strategic planning.

Ferris said he’s been hearing from more students interested in joining the CloverBots club. He’s hopeful the grant will help with growing the program and building it up to be more student-led.

“I enjoy watching the transition of students going from being intimidated by even the thought of doing all of this to realizing, ‘I can do this,’” Ferris said. “The students are learning a ton, but they’re having a lot of fun through the process, and that’s what I enjoy.”