Physics Instructor, Robotics Mentor
In 2007, six motivated students with a passion for technology established the KCHS robotics program, known as the Robotichauns. After several failed attempts of trying to find an adult sponsor, the Robotichauns finally found their first mentors in Mike Butler and Susan Rowland, both teachers at Knoxville Catholic High School. Working out of a small storage garage with minimal tools, these six students worked hard to develop, design, and build a robot with minimal outside support both monetarily and experience-wise. Surprisingly, the Robotichauns found an unlikely ally in Webb High School – the main rival of Knoxville Catholic High School. Thanks to their mentoring, the Robotichauns were able to put together a working robot and compete in their first regional, hundreds of miles from home, in Atlanta, Georgia.
After a good showing at the Peachtree Regional and the end of the school year, Mr. Butler accepted a position with another school. With only one mentor left and an almost empty bank account, the Robotichauns teetered on the edge of collapse. Susan Rowland, recognizing just how important this club was to the six members and admiring their passion for technological growth, vowed to keep the club in existence. Rowland, alongside with the members of the team, worked hard to come up with a comprehensive plan to ensure the club’s existence remained intact. They developed the club’s first working business plan and began to fundraise and recruit new members. In short, the Robotichauns owe much of their existence to the original group of students and their mentors because, without their hard work and dedication, the robotics club would have ceased to exist after that first year.
Much has changed for the Robotichauns since that first season ten years ago. The program has transformed from six members building a robot in a small storage garage to a team of forty dedicated members working hard to design, build, and program a robot while marketing the team, writing technical papers, completing grants, mentoring new schools, and participating school service. Additionally, the Robotichauns have been invited to meet and build at the ORNL Manufacturing Demonstration Facility for the last four years and have developed good relationships with the engineers at Dow, ASME, UT, ORNL, and SYSCO who our students work alongside.
The Robotichauns have also achieved considerable success at regional competitions since their first showing in Georgia. At the Great Smoky Mountain Regional Competition, the Robotichauns placed second in 2013 and first in qualifiers in 2014. During the off-season, the Robotichauns were the 2014 Battle for the Bluegrass Champions. The Robotichauns have won The Innovation In Control Award at The Smoky Mountain Regional in 2012, The Creativity Award at The North Carolina Regional Competition in 2012, and the Excellence in Engineering Award at the 2014 Smoky Mountain Regional.