Michigan Robotics Coach Wins Big

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The FIRST Robotics World Championship was a winning event for Jim Zondag, a member of North Hills Christian Reformed Church in Troy, Mich.
His team, the Killer Bees, took home second place from the event in St. Louis, Mo.

Jim Zondag (lower left) with his winning team, the Killer Bees.

FIRST Robotics is a mentorship program that places select high school students side by side with professional engineers to design and build robots capable of playing a new game challenge each year. This year Zondag worked with 40 students from Notre Dame Preparatory High School in Pontiac, Mich., initially training them in machine design, metalworking, electronics, and computer programming. 

Then they designed and built a robot roughly the size of a washing machine that could collect and shoot Frisbees at 15 miles per hour, competing against more than 2,500 other teams worldwide.

After hundreds of hours of work, Zondag and the Killer Bees triumphed in their three Michigan tournaments. Then as one of 400 finalist teams, they went on to win second place at the world championship in St. Louis.

“Several of our senior students were awarded university scholarships through their experience on our team,” Zondag said, “and many have engineering internships for the summer.”

Eighteen years ago, Zondag, who had built robots while a student at Calvin College and who is currently a software engineer for Chrysler, volunteered to coach in Chrysler’s then fledgling high school robotics program. Admitting that he likes to invent things and enjoys the challenge of mentoring and teaching high school students, he has stuck with it. He said that “some of them become very good engineers at a very young age.”

About the Author

Anita Ensing Beem is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. Retired director of education and outreach at North Hills CRC in Troy, Mich., she now resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., and is a member of First CRC.

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