Joey Franz, a senior at Liberty North, says the robot that the students at his school and Liberty High build for the FIRST Robotics Competition each year goes beyond the technical aspect.
“When you go through robotics and build a robot, the robot builds you,” said Franz, the chief public relations officer for FIRST Team 1764 Liberty Robotics. “While you go through FIRST and build this robot, the experiences you get and the life skills you are taught as you work on this robot build you up and you can have a more successful future.”
The Liberty Robotics Foundation funds the FIRST Team 1764 Liberty Robotics. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was founded to assist with the financial demands to have STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) within the Liberty Public Schools system, said foundation board member Lesli Hayter.
“Liberty and Liberty North High School have 81 students on their team,” Hayter said. “Our budget for that team alone is $45,000 per year.
“We raise funds every year to create additional income so we can support the different FIRST robotics teams at all levels of the Liberty Public Schools, from elementary through high school. The reason we do that is we want no child to be left out because of socio-economic status. Our kids do not pay to play here.”
It costs $5,000 to enter a robot in a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and an additional $4,000 for a second competition. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), was founded in 1989 and is based in Manchester, N.H.
FIRST’s mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills that inspire innovation and foster well-rounded life capabilities.
“We have so many kids who come in as freshmen who are not comfortable talking to people, and by their senior year, they are out there talking to people, signing up for community events,” Franz said. “It is so great how kids transform when they go through this program.”
Gary Montoya saw this energy on a gorgeous Saturday morning in mid September at Liberty High School. Montoya, the general manager at Gary Crossley Ford, at 8050 N. Church Road, Kansas City, was on hand overseeing Ford’s Drive 4 UR School program.
Ford Motor Company donated $20 for every test drive or car inspection that took place on Sept. 19. This was the seventh year that Gary Crossley Ford selected the Liberty Robotics Foundation, and this year it changed the name to Drive 4 UR Community.
“We are excited they changed it from school to community because it has impact on the community and not just the school,” Hayter said. “We hope today to raise 20 percent of our yearly budget in one day because of Ford’s commitment to Liberty Robotics Foundation.
“If we max out 300 test drives, that is $6,000. We will spend $5,000 for that one competition. So it is huge. Ford does this huge event for us and it is gone for one competition.”
All Montoya has to see is a student like Franz and hear the excited way he talks about the robotics program to know what Gary Crossley Ford is doing is impactful for students in Liberty Public Schools.
“The greatest part about our relationship with the robotics team is all the passion they show,” Montoya said. “Look at the volunteers. Look at the kids. This is a Saturday morning. They know how important it is for them.
“This is exciting for us. We love working with groups associated with the Liberty Public Schools district.”
Hayter said the students learn more than the engineering and math aspects of building a robot.
“The team at the high school is structured like a business. We have a CFO, a COO and we have a marketing person, all those different positions,” Hayter said. “It is imperative for these students to get out in the community and see how the world works.
“They are also in charge of fundraising or sales. So when they go out and spend the day at Gary Crossley Ford, they are learning. That empowers them to know what they want to do in the future and the opportunity to try new things that most students don’t get to try.”
The next big day for the Liberty robotics team is Jan. 9. FRC will have a kickoff to the competition.
“They will release the code so we can go online and open up the game manual and from that moment, we have six weeks to brainstorm and make a model of the robot on a computer and then build a robot and have it programmed and ready to go,” Franz said. “One competition we do every year is the Kansas City Regional competition and it is at the Metropolitan Community College Business and Tech Center.”
The fundraising also helps the Liberty robotic team to travel outside of Missouri. In the past, the team has traveled to Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois and Ohio.
“We are very fortunate to have Gary Crossley Ford as our top sponsor,” Franz said.
If you have a story you would like to see in Making a Difference, email David Boyce at Drive@ksctar.com