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Braxton Manufacturing Sponsors New Student Robotics Team

Power Surge 4-H Robotics students, mentors and parents celebrate their new team shirts and shop at the Braxton Manufacturing building in Woodbury.

WOODBURY – A new student robotics team has found a home in Woodbury thanks to a Watertown manufacturer.

Power Surge 4-H Robotics is a new, competitive robotics team formed after a majority of students and all of their industry mentors split from the local high school team in Region 14. The new team operates under the University of Connecticut 4-H Youth Development Program, building a robot for the F.I.R.S.T, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, competitions.

According to Tom Ordway, president and chief executive officer of Braxton Manufacturing Co. Inc. in Watertown, the students and mentors decided to form the 4-H team “to conserve costs, have more effective meeting times, and to preserve effective team traditions that foster a great learning environment for students.”

Braxton agreed to provide shop space for the team in a building it owns in the historic Hotchkissville area of Woodbury. The building is the shop where Braxton was founded, and the space provides more flexible hours to accommodate a wider range of member schedules, Ordway said.

“Our mission is to not only inspire and share technical knowledge with students, providing a head start for their higher education and careers, but to outreach to the community to promote science and technology to more students,” he said. “In turn, this provides experience with public speaking, networking with potential employers, recruitment of both students and mentors to the team, as well as building team communication skills.”

Ordway noted that alumni of the high school-sponsored team have gone on to achieve careers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as with Apple, Microsoft, General Motors and Amazon Robotics, among others.

Membership for the Power Surge 4-H Robotics team is open to high school-aged youth from any town that doesn’t have a robotics program, and to home-schooled students not allowed to participate in their school-district’s clubs.

Participants learn mechanical, electrical, software and systems engineering, but the group also operates like a business, providing experience with finances, public relations and communication, social media, photography and videography skills.

Because the team split from the Region 14 robotics team, it had to return the robot it built last year, as well as all of the tools, robot materials and funding to the school. The new team needs to raise money to buy tools and materials, and to cover competition registration fees.

“If we qualify all the way to the World Championships, as we did back in 2015, the total registration costs can be $15,000 or more, and the typical robot material costs can run about $6,000 each year,” Ordway said. “Our competitions branch out from the New England region to Detroit for the World Championships, and there are travel and hotel costs for typical three- and four-day competitions.”

To donate tools or equipment, contact the team via email at powersurge4hr@gmail.com. Financial donations, which are tax deductible, may be sent to Power Surge 4-H Robotics, P.O. Box 2, Woodbury, CT 06798. For information, visit http://powersurge4-hrobotics.org.

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