In competition, many times combatants will strive to be the best in their activity at a high level, whether that is on a state or national level. However, one person from Mayville recently had the chance to have her team be one of the best in the world. Nicole Wenzel, a senior at Mayville High School, recently traveled to St. Louis, MO to compete at the FIRST Robotics World Championship at the Edward Jones Dome, the former home of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams.
Wenzel, who was a senior at Mayville High School this year, is a part of the Fondy Fire Robotics team comprised of students from high schools from throughout eastern Wisconsin. In addition to Mayville, there are also participants from Fond du Lac, New Holstein, Kiel and Rosendale. This year at the FIRST Robotics World Champisonships, the team was a semifinalist in its division. “We try to go to the world championship (as much as possible). Optimistically, we would go every year.
In our 10 years of existence, we’ve only gone five times now. We’ve done very well at the world championships,” said Fondy Fire lead mentor Mark Holschuh, who is also an engineer at John Deere. Wenzel was one of the students who attended the event in St. Louis. “It was a very unique experience. I don’t think I’d ever go to anything quite like that ever again. Since they were world championships, there were teams from all over.
It was very interesting to network with various kids and adults from Australia, China and Ireland,” Wenzel said. “I met some kids from California who are involved in the field that I want to get a degree in.” Wenzel also met some students who are planning to go to college at the same place she is planning to go to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. There are college recruiters and corporate sponsors at each championship yearly who meet with students who participate. “They’re trying to get their name out there so the students remember them when they graduate,” Holschuh said. Participants meet for practice and mentoring in engineering at Moraine Park Technical College’s Fond du Lac campus.
Fondy Fire meets Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week during their build season and all day on Saturday. Some students will be there four days a week, but others may only attend on Saturdays. However, students are not necessarily expected to be at Moraine Park every day Fondy Fire meets. “The students don’t come every day. Their homework has to come first, and they have other things going on like driver’s ed and confirmation classes.
Homework is a big thing; they have to keep their grades up,” Holschuh said. “I don’t expect them to come every day we meet, but the more they come the more they are going to get out of the program.” “I know the students love doing this and they come as often as they can,” Holschuh added. “I understand they have other things going on in their lives and other activities, but hopefully they get a lot out of the program. They get a lot of practical handson experience.”
Some students participate in the program for the stepping stone to engineering in college and/or a career while others participate for an extracurricular. “Students are definitely looking at the STEM value in it. They get to apply a lot of what they learn in school. We don’t really teach them that much; that’s the teachers’ job. We’re applying what they’ve learned. Every now and then, you see the students have these little epiphanies where, ‘Oh my gosh. That’s what the teacher covered in class.’ A lot of times when students get to college, they realilze, ‘Yes. We did that on our robot team.’ I hear that a lot from a lot of the students who have graduated through the program in school and who are working in the real world,” Holschuh said. Wenzel has always been interested in science and she thought Fondy Fire would be a good outlet to explore her interest.