CALUMET CITY | Students at Thornton Fractional North High School are exploring new areas of science with the Robotics Club, approved by the District 215 School Board during its December meeting.
Teacher Robert Predl is the club's sponsor.
"Robotics and automation are the future for engineering and manufacturing. They are not the flying car of the 1950s," Predl said. "Every year more and more industrial applications are being developed for robotics and students need to be part of that development. If we can inspire one idea, one student, to solve an unsolved problem, just imagine how that can change the world."
It began when junior Shaquille Johnson approached Predl at the beginning of the school year.
"He told me he thought there were a few students that he knew that would be interested in learning more about robotics," Predl said.
The School Board approved the club for a developmental period, and it will have to pay for its own activities and supplies through fundraisers for now.
"Every club has a two-year probationary period that they must complete. The purpose is to make sure the club will be able to sustain their membership and purpose," school Activities Director Robert Paradise said. "If they complete the necessary two years, they are eligible to be reclassified as a full-status club."
A total of 12 students — ranging from freshmen to seniors — make up the group's membership, as of now. It meets twice a month during the school year.
The club began meeting informally during the last school year. The members take on challenges to build robots to solve problems, such as maneuvering around cones or picking up and moving balls.
Now that the club is official, it plans to seek out and enter competitions with other high schools, Johnson said.
Johnson said Predl secured grants to help the group buy supplies.
"Without (Predl), we'd just be looking at computer screens instead of building actual robots," Johnson said. "He's awesome."
Predl said the group will begin with an introduction to robotics and automation and how they're used in industry and build to students getting hands-on experience.