Grandville’s 60K sq. ft. robotics competition facility opening in August

GRANDVILLE, Mich. — Grandville schools have been planning their new robotics facility for the past eight years, with construction actually beginning three years ago. In August, they will open the doors to their new 60,000 square foot robotics competition center near the middle school.

‘Other schools need to do this’: Grandville’s 60K sq. ft. robotics competition facility opening in August

The district first began its robotics program back in 1998, with physics teacher Michael Evele and another educator.

“The first year, we probably had 15/20 students,” he told FOX 17 Friday.

“In my 36-year teaching career, things have changed so much. Kids are so much more capable, and have so many more opportunities.”

Evele had to take a break from the robotics team after their first year— he had just had his first child, after all.

Fast forward a few years, and the district has Doug Hepfer heading up the program.

Hepfer’s passion for instilling the virtues of robotics on his students is palpable. He bubbles enthusiasm for the work they do.

“We’re 25 years old, we’re 700 Kids, we’re 170 teams… We make stuff that’s on the ground, in the air, and underwater right now,” Hepfer told FOX 17 Friday as he took our crew on a tour of their new space.

“This facility has been built to take us through the next 20 years.”

It was several years ago now that Hepfer reached out to Evele, looking to get the crew back together.

That is where Grandville Superintendent Roger Bearup comes into the story— joining the district nine years ago.

“When I first became a superintendent at Grandville, one of the first things that happened was the RoboDawgs program invited me to go to Lansing with them, they were doing a competition and doing some interaction with legislators,” Bearup explained Friday.

“I was just amazed at how student-driven it was.”

Bearup asked Hepfer what else the program needed.

“And the biggest thing that came up was space… we need more space,” Bearup said.

Hepfer continues, “we said, we need a competition center, but we also want it to be heavily utilized. You don’t use a robotics center for large competitions every day of the week, you run a large competitions on weekends.”

To fulfill that need, they included an athletic court in the main section of the new robotics center.

While that floor will likely be used daily during the school year by gym classes, the structure around it is fitted completely for robotics.

In all, there will be about 60,000 square feet of space designated specifically for engineering, technology exploration and robotics.

There are a number of facets included to limit noise travel and intensity.

They have a perforated roof, and then sound panels running around the walls of the facility.

Next to the athletic court is a massive sprawl of sanded concrete, perfect for high temperatures and chaotic activity.

This is where the district will hold their regular combat robot competitions (think BattleBots).

They have cages that will sit on the space, specifically made to facilitate the safe battling of robots powered by lithium ion batteries— lithium ion batteries require intense safety precaution because of their fire risk.

Able to control the light in the building, the air, the sound, they have also installed massive power boxes every ten feet on the concrete floor.

“These teams use a lot of power… they bring in power tools, the robots need batteries, the computers have batteries,” Hepfer explained.

“I can run any type of robotics competition with 200 teams, and don’t need any more power. The power is already here.”

The whole building is also made to accommodate aerial drones, with large fans hanging from the ceiling that can easily be turned off.

Attached to this space is a smaller room created for racing aerial drones inside.

“We can fly full-size drones every day of the week safely. Most school’s set up time is a couple hours,” Hepfer said.

The coaches, administrators, and of course the students are excited for the space to open up, and looking forward to what it might mean for their future.

“Other schools need to do this,” Hepfer said Friday.

“When they see what this does for the ability to compete, for the number of kids that will get excited about things, this will revolutionize what happens in that classroom, because they can apply it here.”

Bradford White signed a five year partnership with the district, to provide the robotics competition center with $125,000 over the next five years.

Any interest in getting your company’s name on the actual facility? The district is still looking for a sponsor in exchange for naming rights.

You can reach out to them, and follow along with all of their robotic expeditions, at their website HERE.

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