For more than a decade, an eastern Iowa couple has helped get students excited about science and technology.
Bruce and Jan Newendorp are mentors for the Cedar Falls High School Robotics Team. The team competes through a program called FIRST, a non-profit organization "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology."
This year's robotics teams was faced with designing, building and programming a robot to throw Frisbees in just six weeks' time.
Two people who helped a lot during that short amount of time were mentors Bruce and Jan Newendorp.
"I feel like I learn quite a bit from them," said Cedar Falls Junior Jared Failor. "Jan keeps us in line, and Bruce is very helpful with the mechanical side of things."
Teacher Kenton Swartley started the team in 1999, which is why the team is called the Swartdogs.
Bruce Newendorp joined the team two years after it started when the Newendorp's son signed up. Jan started in 2003 when their daughter was on the team.
Even though both of their children have now graduated, the Newendorps are still with the team.
"I love working with the kids," said Jan Newendorp. "The competitions, not so much. It's nerve-racking. The best part is definitely the kids. They are so amazing. They become like family."
The robotics team exists to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and math.
"A lot of kids don't get a chance to build things anywhere else so they come here and they get a chance to use tools and make things they wouldn't get a chance to do otherwise," said Bruce Newendorp.
Just in time for the Feb. 19 deadline, the robot was accurately shooting Frisbees.
The Newendorps said it's really the students who deserve all the credit. Their role is to make sure all the students have a good experience.
The team is signed up for two FIRST Robotics Competitions in Minnesota in March. The main objective is to shoot Frisbees into a specified goal. The students get extra points if their robot can climb a tower, but they focused their attention on the Frisbees.
If the students win one of the competitions, the team qualifies for the championships in St. Louis in April.
Besides robotics, Bruce and Jan Newendorp organize the Cedar Valley's FIRST Lego League Competition for middle school students.
That competition requires a team of students to program a robot that will score points on a playing field. A second part of the competition is developing a solution to a problem given to them by FIRST Lego League.
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