Treasure Mountain Junior High robotics club manufactures a winner |

Treasure Mountain Junior High robotics club manufactures a winner

As the weeks passed and they didn’t hear back about a contest they’d entered for a free 3-D printer, members of the Treasure Mountain Junior High robotics club were beginning to give up hope.

Adam Hickey, the club’s vice president, who wrote the application for the contest, checked his email every day. Each time, his inbox was empty.

"I was told what day we’d hear back and that day came and went, so I assumed we hadn’t gotten it," he said.

But then, a glimmer of hope. A week after the club was supposed to hear back, members got word the contest had been swamped with applications, delaying the announcement of the winners. The following week in January, Hickey got the email the club had been waiting for.

Hickey read the first line: "Congratulations, your club has been selected to receive a 3-D printer."

"That’s about as far as I got reading the email before I got really excited and started jumping up and down," Hickey said. "It took a while to get focused again to read the rest of it."

The robotics club, which has about 15 members and is in its second year at Treasure Mountain, is one of roughly 1,600 programs in the country to be awarded a 3-D printer worth more than $1,000 as part of the 2014 EKOCYCLE Cube 3D Printer Program. 3-D printers allow users to manufacture three-dimensional products from a digital file.

"It was pretty unbelievable, really," said Megan McKenna, a science teacher who coaches the club. "We didn’t really think we had a chance. We’re a pretty small club that’s just getting started out here. We have kind of been the underdogs here the last two years, so we weren’t really expecting it. But we were pretty ecstatic and it’ll definitely be something we can use."

The application process was relatively simple. The contest required the club’s history and responses to two questions: What would the club use the printer for, and why did it specifically want an EKOCYCLE Cube Printer?

According to Hickey, the answers were easy. A 3-D printer would allow the club to manufacture any part it needs, which would make building robots much easier. And the EKOCYCLE Cube Printer, in particular, would be perfect because its eco-friendly design allows it to print with recycled material.

"We would like that because we don’t like pollution," Hickey said. "We want to help the environment as much as we can."

Winning the printer comes at a time when excitement about robotics is peaking. McKenna hopes the printer will give students even more incentive to join the club.

"Robotics is becoming really popular. There’s more and more interest," she said. "A lot of companies are supporting growing programs in school districts and we’re no exception."

McKenna said the club has received the printer and is waiting for district approval to use it. She hopes it is operational when the students return Feb. 17 from the President’s Day break. The students are anxious to see it in action.

"Every day they are asking me if it’s up and running yet," McKenna said.

McKenna plans to use the printer in her science classes, as well. She said it offers an opportunity for students to learn a technology that will be around for years to come.

"3-D printers are going to be like the Internet and cell phones for their generation," she said. "I really think it’s technology that’s going to change everything. And we’re still in the early stages, so this will give students an opportunity to check it out now. They’ll definitely be seeing more of them in the future."

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