Cummins provides grant for BCSC Robotics League

Photo provided Smith Elementary’s Sonic Cyborgs pose for a photo at the VEX Robotics World Championship competition in Dallas.

A local employer is providing $16,000 to support the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s elementary and middle school robotics teams.

The school board voted Monday to approve a grant agreement with Cummins, Inc.

According to Davida Harden, curriculum specialist for BCSC STEM initiatives, the $16,224.98 grant will be used to purchase VEX Robotics equipment for elementary and middle schools, which will support BCSC’s new robotics league.

“With the BCSC Robotics League, that gives us the ability to be able to host tournaments and events within our corporation, and we have five events scheduled for this upcoming season,” she said. “And so within each elementary school, we have at least one robotics team. Sometimes there’s even more robotics teams within the elementary and the middle schools.”

BCSC teams will be able to compete against each other, and the school corporation is also looking at a potential partnership with Brown County.

According to the VEX IQ Robotics Competition schedule, “BCSC Pump Up the Jam VIQRC Blended League” events are scheduled to occur from Oct. 28 to Dec. 16, with elementary and middle school teams in BCSC and Brown County invited to participate.

In spring of 2023, Smith Elementary’s Sonic Cyborgs ended their first season by competing at the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas. Teams at the VEX IQ Elementary level were split into 10 divisions. According to STEM teacher and coach Lisa Haines, the Cyborgs came in 23rd in their division, which was made up of about 75 teams.

While local team did not advance to the division or overall finals, they ranked 112 in skills out of about 700 elementary teams.

“Because of their success and others, our robotics league this year, with elementary and middle, has over 20 teams,” Superintendent Jim Roberts told local officials at a recent Columbus City Council meeting.

The school corporation was at 28 teams as of Monday, said Harden.

In discussing the origin of the grant, she said that BCSC has been working with Cummins for about six to eight months and had discussed the prevalence of robotics teams in local schools. BCSC officials shared that there were some teams, but not one in every elementary school.

Board members Nicole Wheeldon and Jason Major recused themselves from voting on the grant agreement due to their respective connections with Cummins. Both are employed by the company, and Major said that he also leads the Cummins’ community involvement board in the Columbus area.