MCC Early College students among robot builders at this week’s FIRST Robotics contest

Jordan Fountain (left) and Timothy Collins are MCC-Business & Technology students who not only attend classes as part of the MCC-BT Early College Program, but also compete in KC FIRST robotics.
Jordan Fountain (left) and Timothy Collins are MCC-Business & Technology students who not only attend classes as part of the MCC-BT Early College Program, but also compete in KC FIRST robotics.

“A bunch of nerds in a room doing their thing.”

That’s Jordan Fountain’s description for his robotics team, First Bots of Independence 1723. But the hundreds of spectators visiting the Metropolitan Community College-Business & Technology campus this week likely would describe the group as really cool.

Fountain and Timothy Collins, a member of the “Hermes” team at Ruskin High School, are competing in the Greater KC FIRST (Kansas City For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition Thursday to Saturday, March 10-12, at MCC-BT.

Both of the high school juniors are honing their skills as students in the Early College Program.

“Taking classes in the Early College Program definitely is an advantage,” said Collins, 17. “You learn a lot about CADD (computer-aided design and drafting), which helps you build the robot.”

The Early College Program gives high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to work toward a college certificate and degree, as well as prepare for a career. Students can earn up to 42 credit hours, paid for by their school district, in two years in Engineering Technology, Computer Integrated Machining and Manufacturing and Industrial Technology.

“This is a good education. It’s really helping me,” said Fountain, also 17. “I want to be an aerospace engineer, and I’ve learned a lot of things that I can use in that field. It’s also been a big help on the robotics team, especially for planning the design.”

Nearly 60 teams will compete in the event, bidding to earn one of six spots in the FIRST World Championship next month. Each squad received its robot kit on Jan. 9 and had six weeks to build it.

Fountain and Collins have been chosen by their respective teams to drive the robot during the competition, which features an obstacle course based on a medieval theme. They accumulate points if the robots complete tasks such as firing medicine balls and by defeating their opponents.

“It is very competitive, especially for some of the teams,” said Collins, who is considering a career in computer science. “Some of the teams have enough people on them to put together dances and outfits. It can be pretty intense.”

Robert Dumler, an instructor and Early College Program coordinator at MCC-BT, organizes the event. Dumler is a member of the KC STEM (science, technology, cngineering and math) Alliance, a nonprofit that leads FIRST and other STEM efforts in the region.


High School: Ruskin, Kansas City

Year: Junior

Age: 17

Team: Hermes (Ruskin High)

How he got involved: “When I was a freshman, one of my teachers got me into robotics because he know I was interested in technology. I was looking for something extracurricular, and he suggested robotics.”

Commitment: Team meets from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.


High School: Truman, Independence

Year: Junior

Age: 17

Team: First Bots of Independence 1723 (Truman, Van Horn, Chrisman High)

How he got involved: “Usually I’m a wrestler, but this year I talked to my engineering teacher about robotics, and he persuaded me to be on the team. It has been a lot of fun.”

Commitment: Team meets from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.


When: 7:45 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, March 10

7:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday, March 11

7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12

Where: Metropolitan Community College-Business & Technology, 1775 Universal Ave., Kansas City

Who: Competitors are high school students (ages 14-18); 60 teams will compete.

Cost: Free and open to the public

Senior Walk: On March 11, seniors competing in the event will be honored with a walking ceremony beginning at 7:45 a.m.

Tours: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on March 10 and 11. Tours begin in Room TC 200. Maximum of 40 individuals per tour.

Breakout session: Learn more about college readiness from MCC-BT staff at 3 p.m. March 10 and 3:30 p.m. March 11. Both sessions will be held in TC 200.

College row: Several schools will set up booths and have representatives available to meet with students and parents from noon to 5 p.m. March 10 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 11.