Valley Grove robotics team grateful for chance to compete in Kentucky

The Valley Grove School Board recently read messages of gratitude from four excited elementary students whom the board had helped to attend a robotics competition in Lousiville, Kentucky, in April.

Maddox Songer, Quinten Boozell, Lucas Hickey and Aaron Wetjen, along with teacher Ben Barrett, had sent a letter of thanks to both the members of the board and to others who helped fund the four-day trip to the VEX Robotics World Championship.

“It was very nice to receive the letter,” board Vice President Cindy Swendson announced at Monday’s meeting. “They sounded very happy with the whole experience.”

The boys team, the Brain Teasers, had earned a place at the annual competition by winning a series of local competitions. This year, approximately 400 teams from around the world attended the Louisville event to compete in robotics and other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) challenges.

The Brain Teasers, all sixth-grade boys at Valley Grove Elementary School, were part of the Apollo Division and placed 35th out of 81 teams, according to Barrett.

Hickey and Wetjen wrote they particularly appreciated being able to pair up with a team from China during the competition.

“We understood each other and we got the most points with them,” wrote Hickey, who also said he liked the extent of teamwork that they experienced.

“I think it was a great experience,” he said. “I hope we can do it next year if we make it.”

Wetjen called the experience “the best time of my life and I will never forget it. The best part of my experience was working with the Chinese team. We talked together and they were so nice.

“The one thing I loved was the diversity of robots there and the countries there. For example, there were tons of robots I have never seen before and the teams were from different countries.”

Songer wrote, “I liked that I met people from all over the world. It was also fun to go to Kentucky Kingdom for our team party. I also got to sample real Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

Boozell commented, “It was an awesome experience, and I learned a lot while I was there. I had a great time, I made new friends, and I got to spend time with them. Robotics is really fun and I can’t wait to do it next year.”

All four students thanked the board and the other donors for sponsoring them, and Barrett reported the experience “allowed for student development of teamwork, critical thinking, project management and communication skills. All of which will prepare them to become the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers.”

In other business:

– The board approved the annual appointment of Jennifer Gornall as solicitor and Diana Amon as treasurer, both one-year terms.

– The board approved the purchase of fire, general property, liability and automobile insurance from Utica Insurance Co. in the amount of $46,764. The renewal amount was the same as the amount for the 2018-19 school year.

– The board approved the purchase of coverage for workers’ compensation insurance with UPMC Health Benefits at a cost of $19,984. The district had received two quotes, according to the agenda: UPMC Health Benefits at $19,984 and AmTrust North America at $19,781. The premium represents a $3,439 decrease, or 17 percent, from the 2018-19 school year, according to the agenda.

– The board approved the purchase of student and athletic insurance from Bollinger Specialty Group in the amount of $2,920. The renewal amount was the same as the amount for the 2018-19 school year.