Editor’s Note: This article was originally written by Aaron Laramee and David Stern for Ithaca Week, an Ithaca College student publication. It is republished with permission.

ITHACA, NY – The Technology Student Association and Code Red robotics clubs showcased the projects that they have worked on this school year at an open house at Ithaca High School on Saturday, Feb. 6.

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Students presented the impressive creations that they have engineered, ranging from model cars and Lego buildings, to four-wheeled robots zipping across the floor and launching balls into the air. This event marked the 15-year anniversary of the first collaboration between these clubs and Ithaca schools.

TSA is a technology club that operates at both Dewitt Middle School and Ithaca High School. Code Red is a technology club at the high school level only and currently there are around 50 students on the Ithaca High School Code Red Robotics Team.

Karen Kiechle, a special education teacher in the technology clubs at Ithaca High School, explained the overlap between the two clubs, “because there is no code red robotics at the middle school level they have a huge group for TSA, and then they come to the high school and some kids go to Code Red robotics and some kids stay with TSA and some kids try and do both.”

The success of these programs in engaging the students is impressive. “There are so many different things that go on in the technology department, everyone can find some place to be successful,” Kiechle said.

With such consistent student participation, these clubs have also found success at some of the competitions around the country. The Code Red team competes in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competitions every year, making it to the international championship tournament in St. Louis the last two years. FIRST is a non-profit charity organization founded by Dean Kamen with the goal of inspiring young kids to engage in science and team building while gaining leadership skills and building self-confidence.

In order to compete in these exciting robot-battle style tournaments, teams have to raise between $5,000 and $6,000 for registration, according to FIRST’s website. That’s where the fundraising comes in.

Karen Trible is part of the community of parents who actively support these technology clubs. She currently helps with fundraising by selling energy-efficient LED light bulbs and all the parents work together to provide a productive environment for the students.

Trible, who has been volunteering for Code Red over the past 4 years since one of her kids became involved, described how all of the parents are actively involved in making these clubs successful. One of the ways the parents do this is by organizing a massive dinner each night during the building season for all of the kids to enjoy.

“There are about 50 to 60 kids on team any given team, so two parents each night get together and make food for all of the kids.” Trible said. “It ends up being a really big feast.”

Enthusiasm from the parents has been a driving force behind the success of these clubs. Ian Krywe, who has been the head advisor of Code Red for the past eight years, attributes much of the team’s success to the dedicated parents.

“There’s a lot of support from parent-volunteers even though a lot of them don’t even have students on the team any more, they just stick around because they feel so strongly about this organization,” Krywe said.

Krywe, who has been a teacher at Ithaca High School for the past 11 years, got involved with Code Red in his first year there. After just three years he had the opportunity to become the lead adviser, a position he was happy to take. “It’s a great organization.” Krywe said. “It really transforms the students on the team.”

This transformation is what Krywe says his work is really all about. By providing students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge and pursue interests outside of the classroom, Code Red and TSA have helped students forge new relationships and acquire new skills and confidence.

“My favorite part is kind of cliché but it’s true: just seeing the transformation of the kids,” Krywe said. “For students who might not fit in in other places at school, this is the perfect home for them where they find like-minded students.”

Eli Robinson, a sophomore at Ithaca High School, has noticed his growth from last year to now. He started as a parts designer with Code Red as a freshman and stuck with it, despite the challenging learning process. Now, he truly feels like part of the team. “Last year I wasn’t doing a lot but this year I feel like I’m really contributing,” he said.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.