T-BOTS team leaders include, from left, Jonathan, Logan, Caleb, Clay, and Krista.
Additional Texarkana ISD articles:
By Mark Patrick, District Instructional Technology
Specialist and Robotics Coach
“What do you think about robots?”
“I think they’re cool; why?”
“I’ve got a project for you.”
That’s the exchange that I had with our
Assistant Superintendent at Texarkana ISD
three years ago. He had heard about this
international high school robotics competition
called the FIRST® Robotics Competition. As
a former technology teacher and a current
Instructional Technology Specialist, I had little
to no experience with physics and engineering.
I certainly felt inadequate to help launch this
extracurricular program, but I was a teacher,
and I had some experience with program
building, so I decided to give it a shot.
Because I wasn’t able to teach any
specific physics or engineering principles to
the students, we had to rely on the knowledge
and experience that they gained in their
science, engineering, and math courses.
This model immediately put our incredibly
talented students in the driver’s seat, and
I simply became an assistant to help them
pursue their goals. I tried to focus my efforts
on helping the students become professionals
and mature adults through life skills such as
goal setting, leadership, and communication
while working in a professional environment
with high expectations.
Although this model was originally
adopted out of necessity, three years and
multiple awards later, I can’t help but wonder
if my ignorance of robotics, engineering,
and physics was my biggest strength as a
robotics coach. It required the students to
apply knowledge learned from their STEM
courses, and I complemented that with
educational opportunities that are not always
available in the classroom environment. I
couldn’t build a robot for them; the students
were required to own their education and
own their team.
Over the past few years, I have recruited
some excellent coaches at Texas High School
with amazing skills, but the T-BOTS team
still functions within the model of keeping
STUDENTS FIRST and making sure that
students are leading every facet of their team.
In my experience, a coach’s ignorance creates
an opportunity for students to lead.