WMS Beta team wins at state: Students raising money to offset costs to compete at National Competition

After taking two state titles at the convention in November, Wrens Middle School Beta Club members are working to raise funds to compete at Nationals this summer.
Club sponsor Michelle Stewart said that she is proud of her students who won first place in engineering-based Tower of Power and Robotics competitions and Ka’Niya Lewis who placed fourth in the state in the oratory competition.
“We are really proud of how hard they worked at this,” Stewart said. “These kids gave up their own time, giving up break time and coming in after school to practice and work on the robot. It showed them that if you really work at something how you can improve.”
The students were competing against some of the brightest kids from across the state. The 35 Wrens Middle students attended the convention in Macon along with 5,000 students from 164 clubs.
Stewart said that the Robotics competition was added this year. 
“Students had to create a robot that had a function prior to the convention, decide on a team name, and give their robot a name,” Stewart said.
Another WMS teacher and Beta Sponsor, Tracey Rowland, tapped her husband, Gil Rowland, who works at KaMin to help the group of boys who decided to take on this challenge. He then asked fellow KaMin engineer Elton Seton to assist.
With their help, the team consisting of Burton Arnold, Cayden Arrington, Evan Gibbons, Jacob Newman, Jason Templeton, Bryar Stewart, Nate Williford and Yu Zhang became the Blue Squad and built C-4, a custom built robot that can open a standard Coke can, pour the drink from it and then crush the can.
Tracey Rowland said that one of the judges told her that this was by far the best robot they had seen in the competition. 
“All the other schools had bought kits and made a robot based on the instructions in the kit,” she said. “Our students bought materials and went from the ground up.”
Stewart said that the Wrens team worked afternoons and built every part of the robot themselves except for the little bit of welding that was required. 
“To win first place is always exciting but to win first place the first year of a competition is indescribable,” Stewart said. “To think that 33 clubs participated in the Robotics competition, some of them from large systems in the state that generally dominate the competitions, and we won first is just awesome!  We have set a very high bar for this competition for years to come!” 
In the Tower of Power competition students use drinking straws to build a tower that will support a tennis ball. This year the students had 15 minutes 200 straws that all had to be used in the construction. In the end, the Wrens team’s tower was just under 6 feet tall and by far the tallest. 
Stewart said that a volunteer at the event pointed to the Wrens team and told her, “That team over there has practiced and knows what they are doing. They are strictly business; they aren’t talking or anything, just working. They came to win.”
Students making up the Tower of Power team were Evan Walden (captain), MaKayla Anderson, Elijah Brown, Hayden Howard and Kamry Howard.
“Both groups got to see how the math and other skills they learn in school are applied to real world applications,” Stewart said. “Even with the Tower of Power, they learned about the width of the base and how structures absorb weight. Some of these kids are talking about engineering now. It exposes them to career possibilities they had not considered before.”
Stewart has been assisting the WMS Beta Club at the convention for 15 years now and said that this is the first year they have ever won two first places and will be the first year they have planned to compete at nationals. With travel to Orlando, meals and rooms, she estimates it will cost the group around $15,000 to take part. 
In addition to looking for local business sponsors whose names will appear on the team’s competition shirts, Stewart said that the students have begun several fundraisers to help offset costs. These include selling first aid kits, a Valentines cake sale, a Mother’s Day plant sale as well as other projects.
 “We are trying to raise money because I don’t want any of these kids to miss out on this opportunity just because their families can’t afford it. For some of them it will be their first trip out of the state. For several, their first trip to Disney,” Stewart said. “Competing at the national level won’t just be a Beta Club or even a Wrens Middle School achievement. It will be an achievement for Jefferson County with the WMS Beta Club members acting as representatives.”