We’re passionate about community involvement, especially initiatives that spark an interest in engineering. From school “career day” demonstrations to extending internship opportunities to high school graduates and college students, we take advantage of every chance we get to support local student engineers. This is why we proudly sponsor robotics teams at area high schools, providing students with funding, mentorship, and other resources as they design, develop and build fully-functioning robots and compete for regional, national and global recognition.
For most of these programs, fundraising occupies equal mindshare as robot design, since materials, competition entry fees, transportation, and logistics can rack up costs into the thousands. Melfred Borzall currently provides sponsorship to four local high school robotics teams: Central Coast New Tech High School’s Discobots, Orcutt Academy’s Spartatroniks, Arroyo Grande High School’s Eagle Robotics and Nipomo High School’s Titan Robotics. Hundreds of students pass through these valuable programs, each bringing their own creativity, ingenuity, and determination to the worktable.
For some schools, we’ve been able to provide the push that helps a fledgling program take off. Central Coast New Tech High School Senior and robotics team President Ryan Pfarr describes how he and a handful of fellow students approached Melfred Borzall seeking funding to buy materials to launch their school program three years ago.
“We had been part of a fantastic program at a neighboring school, but we wanted to compete under our own school name,” explains Ryan. “Melfred Borzall had sponsored the other school’s program and even allowed us to use one of their plasma cutters to fabricate a custom part we needed, so I knew they would be a good resource to ask. Three of us went to the Melfred Borzall factory and presented our program and outlined our financial need. The guys at Melfred Borzall weren’t just interested in how we were planning to use their assistance – they also wanted to know more about how robotics changed our lives.”
Working 6 days a week, sometimes more than 20 hours per week during the build season, students learn important professional skills and put them into practice. Beyond the technical aspects of robot-building, these emerging engineers are working as a close-knit team, practicing time management skills and learning about the inevitable trade-offs that accompany design, time, and budget limitations. These are skills that manufacturers in every industry must navigate as part of doing business, including how we work at our own HDD tooling factory.
Surprisingly enough, robots aren’t the only cool thing about being involved in these programs. According to Allison Fenske, Senior at Orcutt Academy and Spartatronik’s Robot President, the best things about the whole program are the competitions. “At World Championships, we got to compete against teams from China and Turkey—and meet students who are just as excited about robotics as we are. In the final phase of the last FIRST World Championships, I think every day began with five different national anthems.”
Ryan credits robotics with not only helping him clarify his intended career path but also developing his sense of open-mindedness. “Robotics requires you to open your mind to what is the best way to solve a problem, not just push to make your own ideas heard,” he explains. “It’s important to have the flexibility to change concepts if a new idea will work better in the long run.”
In addition to sharpening her own skills, Allison is focused on igniting a passion for robotics in other students. “Last year I was our team’s Mechanical Lead; this year I’m Robot Captain. Part of my mission is to teach other students how to build, how to machine, how to use a lathe, how to use a mill – basically, how all these things work in the real world. We have amazing mentors who inspire us and provoke our creativity, but their advice and guidance never get in the way of us students doing the actual work.”
As designers and manufacturers of HDD tooling that lays the infrastructure for municipal services and communications, we see important concepts like design thinking and problem solving applied daily in the real world. These students understand this, too. We’re proud to sponsor programs like this that give kids a meaningful career path – in manufacturing, engineering and even non-tech fields. Evaluating challenges, brainstorming solutions, and maintaining clear communication are all important skills, and we’re continually impressed by the level at which these student teams operate. Whatever these kids decide to undertake as a career, school robotics programs have equipped them with experience and know-how that will support their long-term success.