BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Students with Team RUSH 27 joined 40 robotics teams for the FIRST National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. last week.
Their mission was to advocate and spread the word about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Senior Jason Richards explained they talked to senators and congressmen during the three days, beginning with Michigan senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow.
“Everyone was telling them their stories,” he said, adding they had 10 meetings on the first day including going to Governor Rick Snyder’s office in Washington, D.C.
“He has representatives there to help him. He makes relationships out there so he can work with other states and on the federal level as well,” he said.
They talked to Representative Bishop about STEM.
“Everyone was very supportive and very happy to see they have students out here advocating,” Richards said. “Everyone was receptive and excited for what we had to say.”
They also visited with various appropriations committees to check the schedule and also visited with the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.
For Richards, it was his second conference and he felt more confident because he knew what was going on and knew how important it was to build relationships.
“I learned a lot about the government process of general and how a bill becomes a law,” he added. “It is a lot more tedious with the House of Representative having a copy, the Senate having a copy, and flip flopping copies, and what they want each of their copies to say. Then, keep working on it until it gets to the President’s desk to be signed. It’s a much longer process and has to go to all the committees. It’s not just a bill to a law, but bill to a law to getting money then being put into action.”
Now that the students are home, they continue building relationships with their congressmen and senators especially when they are in Michigan.
“It’s inviting them to events,” Richards explained. “It’s showing them what robotics does. It’s showing them what we are doing in our community. Also, keeping your ear to the ground with what is happening in D.C. with the legislation and saying we talked to you, do you plan on supporting this bill or not?’ You have to continue the relationsihp which is something they stressed at the conference.”
Kyle Hughes, coach and mentor, explained they began going in 2008 to check it out. The following year students began relationships with their senators and congress members.
It grew as they took more and more teams with them until it became the National Advocacy Conference.
“Team RUSH as a team created a system where people could register from all over the United States,” she said. “There were about 150 people the last couple of years and this year up to 225 participants. It is just amazing.”
“It was a fun experience to have and how many high schoolers can say they have gone to Capitol Hill and lobbied for STEM education, lobbied for anything, or talked to their Congressman in their office,” said Richards, adding he could see himself go into political science. “It was a truly great experience.”
He added the community can get involved by continuing to support STEM and reaching out to congressmen and senators.
“It’s important to have those relationships,” Richards said, adding to find out when they are in Michigan and to contact them. “Tell them what you have issues about, concerns. They are open to them.”