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Alliance helps build robotics team at West
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Forsyth County News

A local organization is one step closer to getting students from every Forsyth County school involved in competitive robotics teams.

The Forsyth Alliance recently donated $2,000 worth of equipment to West Forsyth High School, which brings the number of robotics teams in the county school system to 40.

The program's head mentor said the organization encourages "coopertition" among students to promote teamwork-based competition.

"There's rivaly," said Rick Folea, "but because we're all one big, happy robotic family. We all work together."

Folea said all Forsyth Alliance teams are funded by local business Automation Direct, which resells factory automation equipment.

"Three years ago, the Forsyth Alliance had only three teams," Folea said. "Now, we've got more than 40, and it's all because of their generosity."

The equipment donated to West Forsyth contains the building blocks for six table-sized robots, which the team can build to compete in an upcoming competition.

The competition pits VEX robots against one another. Folea said the contraptions are built in a similar fashion to old Erector Sets, or toy construction kits.

"They've taken that concept and stuck a computer on the robots," Folea said. "Students compete in pairs, and we've donated enough equipment for West to have multiple teams.

Folea said teams from North and South Forsyth high schools also will compete in upcoming VEX competitions.

He said there are six other kinds of robotics competitions in the county, including one for elementary school students that uses Legos to construct small robots.

Building a robot is a unique experience even for younger age groups, Folea said.

"Just the thrill of being able to design and build something and look at it and say, 'I built that,'" he said. "It's like birthing a child."

Robotics coach Joni Owens said her child, William Booker, has come a long way in the robotics arena in several years.

"It's just really been the best program my son could have ever gotten involved in," Owens said. "He's really learned a lot through the Forsyth Alliance."

She added that the organization teaches important skills to students.

"These are our future leaders and the ones who are going to be running this country," she said. "The Forsyth Alliance teaches them to work hard for their future."

Folea said the organization indeed teaches a positive work ethic.

"So many kids sit there in class rolling their eyes, thinking, 'Why am I learning this stupid math and this stupid science.' Being on a robotics team makes them want to learn that stuff. It re-energizes them."