As RAHS Skunkwork Robotics finishes their season, rumors surrounding potential changes to the club have been circulating among the student body.
According to RAHS Principal Therese Tipton, however, misinformation abounds. For instance, despite the concern of some robotics members, the rumor that the robotics team would no longer earn students credit is false.
“It’s because of the learning that’s happening,” said Tipton, “because [robotics is] hands-on, project-based, they’re learning very important engineering processes and programing. Those are all called out in the robotics engineering framework, so if they’re doing all that work, then that’s creditworthy.”
Because of this, the advisors for the robotics team will also continue to receive teacher pay.
“If the class is credit-bearing, then a teacher would get a teacher stipend,” said Tipton. “There could be a coaching stipend on top of it as well.”
Additionally, for next year, the rumor that the robotics team would start at 5:00 rather than 6:00 was also false. Tipton credits these rumors to how questions and suggestions from teachers, parents, and students could be mistaken for actual, definite changes.
“I think some of the concern came out of questions, not we are going to, but, ‘Hey, what would this look like’ or, ‘Somebody suggested this,’” said Tipton. “So I think sometimes if you ask questions, they think something might be changing.”
In fact, the only major change had already occurred this school year, involving the monitoring of robotics students after school .
“One of our board policies is that for the Highline Public School District, there’s supposed to be some sort of supervision if you have some students,” said Tipton. “So Ms. Tranholt agreed to just be in the commons area upstairs in the cafeteria if large groups of students were staying afterwards for an activity or if they were waiting for a bus, or a ride home, or for robotics.”
Despite these changes not occurring next year, some robotics members, such as RAHS junior Zuzanna Dominic and Skunkworks member, are worried about the changes taking effect in the future.
“She said that she wasn’t going to change things next year, but she really didn’t form it in a question,” said Dominic. “She made it seem like she is going to change our time to 5-8 pm in the future. It was kind of awkward and we are going to lose most of our mentors if that happens because they can barely make it here after work to begin with.”
In fact, Dominic worries the robotics team will be faced with unwanted changes in coming seasons.
“It seemed like Tipton was proposing changes that could theoretically happen to the team in the future,” said Dominic.
According to RAHS junior and Skunkworks member Erin Demaree, such concerns about the future of the robotics team and its relation to the RAHS administration are widespread, especially among the juniors on the team.
“The juniors who are going to be in leadership positions next year and will have responsibility are scared,” said Demaree. “We don’t know what’s happening and the confusion is causing some of us to freak out and other people to stress out silently. We are all just trying to figure it out, but we’re still unsure.”
To some members, the emotional interactions that have already occurred would make it impossible for the robotics team to connect with the administration, even if they start showing more support at competitions.
“When it comes to the people that are already on robotics, it will be hard to prove she is there for us and not on some weird agenda,” said Dominic. “It’s not about rumors, it’s just the fact that we feel like she doesn’t support us.”
However, to Demaree, there is hope that the relationship between the robotics team and the administration can be mended.
“I don’t think any bridges have been burned yet, I just think that we’ve been staring at each other across the water and trying to communicate and waving our arms, and it hasn’t worked yet,” said Demaree, “and now, we’re starting to try to build that bridge and make that connection, and I definitely think it can be done.”
Demaree believes that both sides have room to improve, with both the robotics team and the administration not doing enough to develop their relationship, but she feels there is still time to make progress.
“I personally don’t think that we [the robotics team] have extended a whole huge welcoming arm as much as we could have,” said Demaree. “We have sent her some emails, but it’s been very weak, and at the same time I feel like she has not made a big effort either, so I feel like it’s been really lackluster on both parts, and we need to reverse that in the next month and next year, and start doing something positive.”
For the robotics team part, Demaree hopes that the end of the spread of rumors about supposed changes to the robotics team could help improve the relationship between them and the administration.
“I really want everyone to stop spreading those as much as possible because they’re hurting both sides of this,” said Demaree. “So this relationship that robotics and Ms. Tipton and Mr. Holloway and the new administration is trying to build keeps getting hurt by all of these rumors, and it’s hard to make a positive connection when everyone is throwing false negative connections around.”
On behalf of the administration, Tipton agrees that she and Vice Principal Tremain Holloway could have done more to help support the robotics team, but hopes to correct this in the future.
“One of the thing that I took ownership of, well both of us did, was that we weren’t as supportive during the year as we could have been,” said Tipton. “And we took responsibility for that and pledged to the team that we will come to a competition next year and hopefully demonstrate our support for the valuable part that they are to our school. So hopefully that will help.”