The Michigan City High School Robotics Team held an Open House on Wednesday, Oct. 19, to celebrate the successes of past alumni and introduce employers and university officials to current team members.
Several Robotics Team alumni were on hand for this community event, including Scott Kreighbaum, a 2018 graduate of MCHS. “From when I joined the elementary school team in 2012, to when I graduated Valparaiso University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering this past May, the Michigan City Robotics program has helped me greatly in my professional growth,” Kreighbaum said.
“Being on the Robotics Team taught and inspired STEM skills in me and many others, helping us to get internships at Sullair, Dwyer Instruments, Cleveland Cliffs, and Task Force Tips. I am now working locally as a Test Engineer at Sullivan Palatek, utilizing the skills I gained from being in the MCAS Safe Harbor afterschool robotics program.”
Local business leaders attending the Open House included Larry Fabina, Energy Program Director for Cleveland-Cliffs, and GAF Plant Manager Matt Hannon.
Hannon echoed Krieghbaum’s sentiments regarding STEM skill development. “It was great to see the kids so enthused about the program,” Hannon said. “There is such a need now and in the future for people interested in careers in STEM and the skilled trades. This program gives kids exposure to both and is a great way to get them interested and excited about potential careers.”
MCAS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins was pleased to witness the interaction between MCHS students and community leaders. “Safe Harbor’s Michigan City Robotics program continues to motivate and engage our students, and is leading a number of them to rewarding careers in high-demand STEM-related fields,” she said.
“Our district is grateful for the educators, mentors, and business partners that are making this possible for our students.”
Angie Nelson Deuitch, City Council President and President of Diversity Squared, has been a long time supporter of the Robotics Team and she was present to speak with the Robotics Team members and tour the newly upgraded lab facilities.
“I definitely believe the impact is great for these students and the progression of the alumni is impressive. I believe local companies and manufacturers should get on board to support their future employees and leaders of their companies,” Deuitch said.
Another event attendee was Unity Foundation of LaPorte County President Maggi Spartz, who has followed the team since its Rookie Season in 2011.
“Over these past eleven years, the Robotics Team has created a ‘hub of hands-on learning’ that connects high school students with businesses,” she said. “The activities provided at robotics light up pathways to careers and employment. Students learn quickly what they love, or don’t love to do, creating a win-win for all.”
Robotics Team Senior Mentor Al Walus stressed the important role that local universities have had in shaping the career paths of team alumni. “While our alumni have gone on to colleges and universities across the country, several of our alumni have pursued studies locally at Purdue Northwest and Valparaiso University. We are very grateful for the support of our local university officials who joined in our Open House celebration,” Walus said.
“We really enjoyed attending the open house and seeing the facilities available to the Robotics Team at Michigan City High School,” said Doug Tougaw, Ph.D., P.E., Dean of the College of Engineering at Valparaiso University.
“Most importantly, we appreciated meeting the student members and adult leaders of the team. Our student tour guide did an amazing job! I’m grateful for this amazing program that is providing a huge benefit to the students and the community.”
Tougaw has taught MCHS/Safe Harbor Robotics Team alumni as a professor at VU. One student in particular, Justin Szaday, left a lasting impression.
“Justin is a once-in-a-generation student who impacted every class he took and every research project he worked on,” Tougaw said. “He combined genius-level intelligence with an equal level of work ethic and curiosity. I loved every minute working with him.”
Szaday has since graduated VU, earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois in May, and is now working as a Software Engineer at Google.
In reflecting on the Robotics Team journey as it enters its twelfth season, Kreighbaum concluded, “It’s great to see the growth the team has made over the years and particularly as they work alongside the Michigan City Compressed Air Academy to teach kids technical skills. Connecting youth to career paths with local Michigan City businesses is a big win for students, and a great way to support our local businesses as well.”
The MCHS Robotics Team is currently accepting new members as it prepares for the upcoming competition season.
For more information about the team and how to connect with alumni seeking internships for next summer, contact Safe Harbor STEM/Robotics Coordinator Julie Kreighbaum at email@example.com.