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Allen Newendyke (left) Ryan Moser make some last minute adjustments their 'Simply Complicated' robot before round competitiBataviSaturday February 2 2013.

Allen Newendyke (left) and Ryan Moser make some last minute adjustments to their "Simply Complicated" robot before a round of competition in Batavia, on Saturday February 2, 2013. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT:

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Updated: March 11, 2013 6:29AM

One of my first assignments five years ago when I started at The Courier-News was a Readers’ Reporter column about a new robotics team in Elgin called “got robot?”

The team was taking part in its first FIRST LEGO League competition, something that had to do with the climate. I remember Kristen and Matt McKellar, who must have been about 10, driving a little bulldozer-looking robot around environmental obstacles on a table in their parents’ basement and acting out a skit with their teammates about convincing the mayor to put heated coils in the sidewalk.

I was pretty impressed.

Since then, I’ve written a lot more about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as the Courier’s education reporter.

I’ve written about the new Project Lead The Way classes Elgin School District U46 has planned for the coming school year and the $50,000 grant it received last school year to study and close gaps between male and female students and other underrepresented groups in STEM classes. I’ve covered the You Be The Chemist Challenge, a nationally recognized chemistry competition U46 middle school students competed in for the first time in 2011.

(I even was asked if I was a contestant at the You Be the Chemist Challenge. The truth is I don’t think I knew half the answers those middle-schoolers did.)

I’ve also written about the Elgin Charter School Initiative, which is working to bring a charter school focused on math and science to the city. And as great as all those programs are, Kristen, now 16, told me, “One of the best ways to get students involved in science and technology is by talking to other students about science and technology.”

All members of the got robot? team are great ambassadors for STEM, rallying not just this reporter, but a whole community behind them and their robot, Bessie. Just this past week, Villa Verone in downtown Elgin held a fundraiser for the team’s trip to the FTC World Championship this spring in St. Louis, and Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, recognized the team in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“At a time when we need to do everything we can, everything possible, to promote science education and basic scientific research, I am so thrilled to be able to say that I have met this team, seen the robot, and it is fantastic. We are so proud of these students and we wish their team the best of luck,” Hultgren said.

To learn more about got robot? and help support their trip to the FTC World Championship, visit And join Hultgren and all of us here at Sun-Times Media in wishing the team good luck.

Go, got robot?!

— Emily McFarlan Miller, staff writer

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