Dozens of students mill around the former gymnasium at Pearce Hall in Wentzville, working on electrical wiring, designing software and completing other tasks. The goal: to get their robots to perform complex actions – in this case, to shoot large plastic balls into a high goal.
At one time, the Ratchet Rockers Robotics team from the Wentzville School District had designed one of only two robots that could consistently shoot the ball into the goal and score 40 points independently.
The team, which consists of 50 students from Liberty, Timberland and Holt high schools, has worked tirelessly to be one of the top robotics programs in the state. This year, they won the FIRST St. Louis Regional competition, advanced to state finals and were a World Championship qualifier.
“We definitely have grown in our performance,” said Jacob Clark, who just wrapped up his junior year. “This was an amazing year. Our best, hopefully, is in front of us.”
During the season, team members meet five days a week, including all-day sessions on Saturdays. Offseason, they practice once or twice a week. The squad is housed at Pearce Hall, on property owned by the Wentzville School District. Team members learn more than just designing and building a robot – they also learn life skills that will stay with them as they grow older.
“For every single kid here, it is life changing,” said Teri Clark, one of several adult mentors who help the team.
Ratchet Rockers Robotics, Inc. recently received a $1,000 Operation Round Up grant from the Cuivre River Electric Community Trust. The funds help cover the nonprofit organization’s various expenses. The group, which has been in existence since 2005, is solely funded by donations and grants.