Jamie Forbes has helped forge a robotics dynasty during her time as a biology and algebra teacher at Bullock Creek High School in Midland.
The Saginaw Valley State University alumna has acted as a lead mentor to Bullock Creek's robotics team, Blitzcreek 3770, since its creation nine years ago.
In robotics, lead mentors mostly focus on team communication, often dealing with student relationships, ensuring conflict resolution and handling basic logistics like making sure the team members get fed during competitions.
Forbes said she does deal with the mechanical side of things, but prefers to take a backseat to the students to ensure good learning outcomes for them.
“I ask a lot of questions because I try not to be overly-involved,” Forbes said. “I want this to be their project.”
The approach has paid off, judging by the team's record of success. The Blitzcreek 3770 team has made both state and world championships in the FIRST Robotics competition the past four years, and they have again qualified to compete in the FIRST in Michigan state competition held at SVSU Thursday, April 11 through Saturday, April 13.
Originally from Yale, Michigan, Forbes earned her bachelor's degree in biology from SVSU in 2007 and started teaching at Bullock Creek later that year.
“I coached softball here initially, then jumped on the robotics and really ran with that,” Forbes said. “I love how this program really celebrates what makes our kids unique and what makes them strong.”
Community service is another important aspect of the team, and each student is required to complete volunteer hours each season. Team members take part in all kinds of volunteer activities, including helping set up competition spaces and community events.
“Some of it is directly robotics-related, but a lot of it is just making sure we're good stewards of our community,” Forbes said. “These folks are investing in our team, so we also need to invest in them as well.”
When it comes to the students themselves, robotics gives them the opportunity to develop many different skills. One of the advantages to competing in robotics, Forbes said, is the many different areas that students can focus on. Some students on the team have little interest in the robot itself but love the public relations or business side of it, for example.
“We fundraise upwards of $50,000 to $60,000 a year to run our program here, and some of our students are absolutely integral in communicating with our sponsors,” Forbes said. “Some of our students love the competition aspect of it, or the mechanical challenge, or the programming.”
Forbes looks at robotics as a field that anyone can be a superstar in. She sees her work with the robotics team as a way to help build the future and prepare her students for their careers.
“The kids that are working in this lab and working on that robot are going to go out and be the business people, they're going to be the innovators and the ones really driving us forward in the future,” Forbes said.
For more information about the FIRST Robotics state championship at SVSU, visit SVSU.edu/firstatsvsu.