It takes a Village


Grandville Robotics is starting it’s 18th year, and we’ve grown alot since some teachers and community-minded people from X-Rite started our first robotics team, The Grandville High School RoboDawgs.  Many people contact us and visit each year to learn more about this crazy program that has grown to nearly 90 teams in our school district.  A common question is – what the secret to RoboDawgs’ success?  What’s the secret to 18 years of growth, impacting tens of thousands of young engineers and scientists?  We are organized as a Progam.  Bigger than any one team or group of coaches, we are an idea vested in hundreds of committed volunteers.  Staffed by members of our community and encouraged by School Board members for almost two decades, we have a broad base of support.  Four successive Grandville Public School Superintendents have stood resolutely beside us as our school curriculum has changed and technology has raced ahead.  Ron Caniff, Superintendent for twelve of our eighteen years, invested heavily of his time and energy to help us evolve.   Chris VanderSlice was a champion for us through his years as an Assistant Principal at Grandville Middle School and Principal at Grandville High School – and he remains an ardent supporter in his new role in the District office.

Last Thursday I was reminded of the “village” that supports our robotics program. I was amazed, once again, by some of the people who are the secret to our success.  Thursday evening was busy!.  We kicked off our fall Robotics programs at five of our schools that night.  At South Elementary’s  kick-off, Rosemary Hepfer and Milissa Block organized parents and students into Lego League and VEX IQ teams.  The same organizational work was going on at East Elementary (where Ann Leaver was the key organizer) and Cummings Elementary (where both Doug Howerzyl and Morrie Cunningham pulled things together for the fall).  At Grandville Middle School, a gruop of experienced coaches – including Chuck Parks, Bill LaBarge, Tim Bos, and Chris Leaver – organized a dozen new VEX Robotics teams.  The same evening, at the Grandville Robotics Center, members of the High School coaching staff – including Mike Evele, Steve Clark, Tom Chicklon, and Doug Hepfer – held the first full team practice with nearly 100 high school students.

I’m sure I’ve missed some volunteers who were busy helping last Thursday night, but you get the idea. Successful robotics programs depend on a full “village” of people.  We are blessed to have a huge village of committed and energetic behind the Grandville RoboDawgs!




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