Connect Award

PBHS Iron Mules win Connect Award for outreach
Posted on 03/09/2021
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lesli Brown and the Robotics Club.

The Iron Mules earned the Connect Award during the FIRST Southeast Missouri Regional Competition on Saturday, March 6, held virtually at Poplar Bluff High School.

The award is presented to the participating team that establishes successful connections within the local science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) community.

The most recent partnership has been forged with the U.S. Army Recruiting Office in Poplar Bluff, which donated $1,000 for “booth space” at a qualifying event, to be used toward new hardware that will replace worn-out, outdated equipment, according to advisors.

“It is safe to say that the biggest part of the program has been built on donations over the years,” said Kathy Miller, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics coach. “We started with a single box of parts and the school has provided some funding.”

Established in 2013, the program has received numerous contributions from businesses and individuals, along with grants from organizations, allowing PBHS to participate in meets as well as build its own obstacle course to host regional qualifiers for the Missouri FIRST Tech Challenge.

The students are responsible for assembling and wiring the robot from a kit, and then determining the coding necessary to perform various tasks such as tossing or lifting objects, “including an autonomous period in which the robot does the tasks, automatically, once a button has been pushed, without any help from the controlling student,” Miller explained.

With some of the club’s items used in previous competitions, arrangements were made last month to pay it forward at the Poplar Bluff Kindergarten Center so young students have materials to participate in STEM activities. The donation included approximately 40 waffle balls and 30 waffle blocks, 25 large Duplo-style blocks with two building trays, 10 rings, four “wobble” goals, and a yoga ball.

The Iron Mules also brought the robot in to teacher Kelen Deffendall’s class to demonstrate how the machine has the ability to toss rings via a remote control. Miller’s colleague in the science department, Jeanie Kiefer, later shared the reaction from her kindergarten son.

“Mrs. Kiefer’s little boy, Becket, came home and immediately requested a robot for his birthday,” Miller said. “He asked if he could be in Robotics when he gets into High School.”


Cutline: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lesli Brown video records from her smartphone as the PBHS Iron Mules demonstrate how they coded their robot to toss a ring into a goal on Thursday, Feb. 25.

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