BY WENDI REARDON
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Students in Team RUSH put the final touches on their robot as they got ready for their upcoming Michigan State Competition this week.
Each one of them know how special the program is to them and for others as Team RUSH celebrates their 20th anniversary this year.
“It is a big year for us,” said Jason Richards, a junior in his second year with the team. “We are excited about it because we are going to go for it this year. We are hoping to go all the way in everything. It’s a very fun game to watch because you have that defensive aspect but you can also see this teams just transversing these defenses so well and making these shots so fast.”
Paul Dziepak was on Team RUSH during his senior year in 2002 when it was at OSMTech and said after the experience he wished he had joined sooner.
“There were two things that stuck out to me,” he said. “The volunteers. It is a huge commitment to be apart of a robotics team and could not happen without them. They wanted us to learn and would encourage us to think outside of the box.”
He added the second thing he liked was the competition was “out-engineering” their opponents.
“All teams are given the same task, or game, nationwide,” Dziepak said. “We’d compete by coming up with the best way to accomplish the task. The competition was huge and we worked hard that year and made it to the national competition in Florida.”
Teacher Kyle Hughes shared the came has changed a lot over the years.
“Everything has changed,” she said. “It has gotten a lot harder – across the boards. The games are much more complex and the teams across the world are getting much more competitive.”
She added student participation has also changed because students are busier than they were 20 years ago.
“When we started, there were only a few tournaments and it was really only six weeks long with a few weeks for competitions,” she said. “Today, the tournaments start after the six weeks of build. We then have nine weeks of competitions. It has affected many of our athletes. The students also come in waves of knowledge and expertise.”
Hughes shared a few highlights from the past 20 years including winning their first Regional, 1999; National Woodie Flowers Award – Kyle Hughes, 2000; National Robot Quality Award, 2008; State Championship, 2014; and National Chairman’s Award, 2014.
Clarkston Community Schools picked up the program in 2006 which was a big highlight for a lot of people.
“Nobody knew that we existed,” said Hughes. “Now it is fun to ask kids if they have ever heard of Team RUSH. They are starting to say yes. This is very exciting to us.”
During the 2006 Mentor’s meeting they decided to go for the National Chairman’s Award which they won eight years later.
“The other memorable moments are when I realize at a tournament how awesome our team is,” she added. “From the incredible students who give their all to the returning mentors of which most are alumni, and they ‘get it’and are volunteering their time for our kids. It is such a humbling experience.”
They have also tried to put their name out in the community by working with the Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce, running the Holiday Lights Parade and holding the annual RUSH Regatta, which fans enjoy coming out to watch cardboard and duct tape boats the teams have built to race on Deer Lake.
They lost their single sponsor in 2003 which they learned they needed to diversify their funding.
“This has brought us great fun, while trying to get the community involved with sponsorship. The community has been very supportive of this team and we are very grateful for their support and encouragement,” Hughes said.
Team RUSH also gets younger students started early with FIRST Tech Challenge for the junior high and middle school level of robotics; FIRST Lego League for grades 4-6; and Junior FLL for grades Kindergarten – 3.
“We are very proud that we have know established robotics at the K-12 level in Clarkston,” Hughes smiled.
For more information on Team RUSH including highlights, awards and robots from each year, please visit www.teamrush27.net.
BY WENDI REARDON