Komarek School robotics club participant Damian Marchand shows off his work from the fourth quarter of the 2020-21 school year, made possible by a grant from the Toshiba corporation. (Provided)

There is now a robotics club at Komarek School in North Riverside thanks to a $4,049 grant the school received from the Toshiba Foundation.

The grant was awarded to Komarek in December and the robotics club got going in the fourth quarter of the school year. Because of social distancing requirements, only 10 kids were allowed in the club and eight students actually joined and met after school.

The money from the grant paid for the purchase of a 3D printer with filament and 12 robotics kits from BirdBrain Technologies. 

“The kids were able to build different kinds of robotic creatures of their own design,” said Victoria Wilson, who just completed her third year teaching STEM classes at Komarek School and is the sponsor of the robotics club.

Wilson was the driving force behind the grant application, but she received help from instructional coach Dani Bagdzius and Library Media Specialist Karen Doyle.

“We were looking for a way to get more robotics into our curriculum and purchase materials, so we started exploring different grant opportunities that were out there and we stumbled across on the Toshiba grant and we applied for it,” Wilson said.

The initial grant application focused on a plan for eighth-graders but Wilson had to shift gears because of the pandemic.

The robotics club met in person after school during the fourth quarter of the 2020-21 school year. Wilson said that she saw a big change in kids’ attitudes toward coding after they were able to design their own robots. Before that, they thought coding was hard and boring. That changed, she said, when they saw what they could get a robot to do. Wilson is looking forward to next year, when more kids will be able to join the club.

“I think it’s gotten the kids very excited about coding and very excited about robotics in general,” Wilson said. “I’m excited to see that change in attitude come about for next year.”