Robotics takes off |

Robotics takes off

Dear Editor:

As the Aspen School District Robotics season winds down, I need to thank the many community members who made the opportunity both possible and rewarding for more than 50 students in the Aspen School District.

Over the weekend the first-ever Aspen High School First Tech Challenge Robotics team traveled to Denver to compete in the championship and won their way to the semi-finals through a combination of engineering prowess, programming efforts and a friendly and positive attitude. The 10 students on Team Yeti have set a standard for years to come. Physics teacher Marc Whitley willingly accepted the challenge to mentor the team and take on additional responsibilities with his students.

Matt Hamilton of Aspen Skiing Co. answered the last-minute plea for pins to trade at the competition. In a matter of hours he secured pins, and the team shared them with other teams, winning the chance to be in a championship alliance.

Other local businesses did their share as well, helping students learn about the robotics challenges throughout the year. The five middle-school teams competed in the First Lego League Food Factor challenge this fall, and C.J. Oliver of Aspen’s Environmental Health Department as well as Emily Kolbe of Brunelleschi’s Restaurant teamed up to provide an inside view of problems related to food safety. They willingly gave up hours of time coming to the school or arranging tours and answering questions. Chef Jeff and Tenille Folk, our district food service providers at the district further enriched understanding of food science and health.

The First Colorado Mountain League tournament at Glenwood High School hosted nine schools and hundreds of students in December, and thanks to the many volunteer teachers, staff members, parents, and the support of the Aspen Education Foundation and its many donors, students demonstrated their engineering ingenuity and creative problem-solving. The Silver Spruce Motel in Glenwood Springs provided deep discounts for traveling teams and judges of the event, further enhancing the tournament.

Robotics clubs and teams are now underway at Aspen Elementary School, Aspen Middle School and AHS, as well as the Aspen Community School, Carbondale Middle School, and Glenwood Springs High School. More schools in the valley and beyond want to join us next year. None of this would have happened without the generous seed money provided by the Aresty Family Foundation. With a three-year commitment of funds and the call for matching grants, the program has thrived in an era of tight funding. Two years remain to secure long-term funding and a community support network to create a self-sustaining program.

Already plans are underway for the First Lego League “Senior Solutions” challenge for 2012 and the Junior First Lego League “Super Seniors” challenge. Anyone interested in learning more about robotics in the schools can go to or contact me at to get involved.

I am grateful to work in a community that supports the endeavors of students to such an extent. I cannot say thank-you enough.

Caroline Hanson


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