Mississippi Power’s sponsorship of high school robotics across the service territory has taken a historic step, with Our Lady Academy becoming the first all-female squad to prepare and compete in upcoming FIRST Robotics competitions.
The team’s mentor is 15-year old Savannah Templeton, the current team captain of Gulfport High School’s Team Fusion #364 and daughter of John Templeton, industrial market specialist.
Savannah is now a sophomore at OLA after spending her freshman year at Gulfport.
When she got to OLA, she saw the potential for a new robotics program.
“I’ve always loved robotics, and when I started going to OLA, I realized there was a great opportunity to introduce the girls to advanced STEM-related activities,” she said. “I mentioned it to my teammates at Gulfport and they loved the idea. They came over to OLA with our robot and about 20 students showed up to our introductory meeting. The OLA girls asked a lot of questions, so it became a sort of informal interview session.”
The next step was selling Team Fusion #364 sponsor Clint Brawley on the idea of helping with a startup program.
“She and her family felt that it would be a good change for her academically, but she was determined to stay with our team and serve out her term as captain,” Brawley said. “Since we are a community team based at the high school, any high school-age student can be part of the squad.”
From there, Templeton applied for several grants.
“We received a grant from NASA,” Templeton added, “and officially became Team Alpha Omega in October.”
This year, Team Alpha Omega will compete in the Bayou Regional FIRST Robotics event in Kenner, La.
Currently, the team of eight OLA students travels to Team Fusion’s workshop in Gulfport once a week to train for the mechanical, electrical and computer aspects of robotics.
“I was thrilled when Savannah became a student at OLA and wanted to start a team here,” said Julie Cranford, OLA instructor and school robotics sponsor. “Savannah is quite the go-getter and is determined to have a team here.”
Templeton’s influence has motivated several of her teammates to not only join the team, but to take on leadership roles with the squad.
“I heard about the team and decided to give it a try,” said Elena Lucore, a 15-year-old OLA student who’s now part of the team. “I’ve always been interested in STEM-related activities. You can’t learn welding and construction in English class, so I joined. Pretty soon, we’ll be competing against the boys.”
Robotics teammate Sofia Sanchez heard about the team and received an extra sales pitch on joining from Templeton.
“Normally we ride home together on the bus,” Sanchez said. “Savannah sold me on the idea during several bus rides after school.”
The sell was much easier for OLA senior Emily Busby.
“My brother was on the robotics team at Hancock High,” Busby said. “I want to become an electrical engineer and I knew this would be a perfect place to learn more about that world.”
For Templeton, the world currently rotates around school at OLA, mentoring the new robotics team and serving as Team Fusion’s youngest-ever captain.
“I’ll admit, doing all this has been stressful,” she said. “Luckily, my Team Fusion colleagues are on board with the idea and have been a great help. I’ll keep doing both activities, but when build and competition season begins, the OLA team will elect their own captains and eventually make the team their own.”
Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), produces safe, reliable and environmentally responsible energy for nearly 187,000 customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties. Mississippi Power ranked first in the Southeastern Electric Exchange’s 2016 Safety Performance Reports and is consistently recognized as an industry leader in reliability, customer service and safety. Visit our websites at www.mississippipower.com and www.mississippipowernews.com, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.