Students volunteer at FIRST Robotics, support new generation of STEM learners

October 31, 2023 (Volume 47, Number 5)
Article by Thomas Garrett

Madelyn Rynsburger, a Grand Valley student and former FIRST Robotics member, spent an October weekend volunteering at the West Michigan Robotics Invitational at Zeeland East High School. 

Rynsburger helped to set up the competition field, prepare challenges for the robots and move robots on and off the field. “I knew I wanted to keep being a part of this program, and this is a great way to do it,” said Rynsburger. 

Rynsburger was one of many FIRST Robotics alumni from GVSU who volunteered at the event to support the next generation of students. 

“We don’t have enough kids moving into STEM, and so for us, it's an awesome way to reach that younger group of kids,” said Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing. 

GVSU works to support FIRST Robotics in many ways, continuing to reach students at the K-12  level and encouraging them to further their education, including offering a GVSU FIRST Robotics Scholarship an award of $20,000. 

“Many of these teams also utilize our space at the Innovation and Design Center where we have a full-size practice field,” said Sara Maas, PCEC outreach coordinator. 

Nicki Bonczyk, '14, was also at the event. Bonczyk has volunteered with FIRST in many roles including as a coach, mentor and referee. 

“FIRST is not all about STEM. Each team is like a business, and that requires positions like marketing and outreach,” said Bonczyk.

A high school student from one of the 32 teams at the competition said, “I was never really a math or science person, I found other ways to introduce my strengths to the team, now I do outreach and some of the more artistic work.”  

In March, GVSU will again host the West Michigan Robotics Regional competition, with more than 1,000 students from 54 high school teams from around the Midwest.

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Across Campus

This article was last edited on October 30, 2023 at 10:55 a.m.

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