Letter: Hard work pays off

As the fall robotics season winds up, it is time to recognize the invaluable support the community provides for the hundreds of students involved in the FIRST Lego League Trash Trek competition at Aspen Middle School. Not only does the event require more than 50 volunteers to serve as judges, referees and general support, but it also needs a venue, food and technical support just to get through the day. I need to thank so many parents, students, teachers, businesses and community members for helping make the day worthwhile. The event — a culmination of hundreds of hours of programming, building and planning on the part of 20 teams of students who came from as far away as Steamboat Springs — showcases the creative minds of our next problem-solving generation. This year, the teams tackled the issues surrounding waste, recycling, composting and their impact on the present and future.

Special thanks must go to the Aspen School District, Superintendent John Maloy, who has shown up to support every robotics tournament we have sponsored, and the staff of Aspen Middle School. In particular, Principal Craig Rogers, Assistant Principal Molly Tiernan and building maintenance supervisor John Ott worked hard to provide the infrastructure we needed to pull off the day as well as we did. Many, many teachers from all buildings volunteered as judges and gave up their free time to support students. Parents stepped in as coaches and leaders for the teams and shepherded them through their day, calming frayed nerves and reminding students to plug in their robots so the batteries would not run out. For the second year in a row, Peach’s provided an amazing breakfast for the volunteers and Taster’s served up lunch.

Businesses like Sky Hotel and St. Moritz offered lodging deals for our teams, and the Aspen Thrift Shop sponsored many of our tournament expenses in 2014 with carryover into this year. Pro-Build provided discounted building materials, the high school robotics team, Robo Yetis, served as referees, and Colorado FIRST coordinated the printing of shirts, the awards and the official components of the competition.

Additional recognition must go to Jack Johnson, the outreach coordinator for the Pitkin County Landfill, and Liz O’Connell, waste reduction and environmental health specialist for the city of Aspen. They visited the classroom, worked with teams, shared their expertise and passion and showed students that their ideas and efforts can make a difference. Likewise, guest speakers from Aspen Skiing Co. Auden Schendler, vice president for sustainability, and Henrietta Oliver encouraged students to consider the business perspective on sustainability and what that means for the community. The Aspen Times published an article and video that motivated students for their final push and gave them recognition outside school for all that they accomplished.

It is wonderful to host an event of this magnitude with the support of so many in the Aspen community. I am grateful beyond measure.

Caroline Hanson

Tournament director