Robotics Enthusiasm Soars in Beardstown: High School Students Embrace STEM


  • Beardstown High School introduces a robotics program, offering students the opportunity to build, program, and control their own robots.
  • The initiative uses components from VEX Robotics and encourages students to compete in various challenges across the state.
  • History and geography teacher Frank Shaw spearheads the program, with eight enthusiastic student members gearing up for their first competition in December.
  • The program aligns with the school district’s push for more STEM courses, providing students with valuable skills in computer science, engineering, and collaboration.
  • Students are actively engaged in the hands-on process of designing, building, and testing their prototypes, promoting a practical approach to learning.
  • The students’ motivations range from a general interest in all things nerdy to a passion for engineering and problem-solving.
  • The program fills a void in STEM offerings at Beardstown High School, making it a standout opportunity for students in the small school.
  • Despite the challenges, such as initial costs and finding dedicated educators, Beardstown High School is open to assisting other districts in establishing their own robotics programs.

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In the ever-evolving landscape of extracurricular activities, Beardstown High School students are making a remarkable shift. While their peers might choose to dedicate their after-school hours to sports or music, a select group of Beardstown students has taken up the task of constructing their very own robots.

This academic year marked the launch of a groundbreaking robotics program at Beardstown High School. In this innovative initiative, students are not only constructing robots from scratch but also programming and remotely controlling them. Utilizing components sourced from VEX Robotics, a program providing educational resources from pre-kindergarten to college levels, Beardstown students are immersing themselves in the world of robotics. The ultimate test for these budding engineers comes when they enter competitions across the state, pitting their creations against various challenges.

Frank Shaw, a dedicated history and geography teacher, proudly sponsors the club. Shaw reveals that the club has already garnered eight enthusiastic members and is gearing up for its inaugural competition scheduled for December. The Beardstown school district’s eagerness to offer more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses was a driving force behind the establishment of this program. Shaw’s inspiration came after he attended a competition near St. Louis with his son, an experience that fueled his determination to bring robotics to Beardstown.

Reflecting on the students’ progress, Shaw expressed satisfaction with the smooth development of their robots. Some of the students even dedicated their summer break to researching competitions. Presently, they have three functional driveable robots among them and are actively working on equipping them with mechanical arms to overcome the challenges they encounter.

Shaw emphasizes the program’s accessibility, citing its potential to impart valuable skills in computer science, engineering, and teamwork. The hands-on approach of working on physical projects, where they can experiment, fail, and learn from their mistakes, greatly enriches the students’ learning experiences.

The students do their research, they come up with an idea, they build a prototype, they test it,” Shaw explained. “Not everything works as planned, so they have to return to the drawing board, conduct further research, redesign, rebuild, and retest.”

The students’ enthusiasm for the program stems from a range of motivations. Freshman Julien Mpopo is drawn to it by his general fascination with all things nerdy and his desire to challenge himself mentally. Sophomore Abraham De Jesus Diaz takes joy in the process of assembling the robots and witnessing their smooth functionality. For Senior Randall “R.T.” Evans, robots provide a unique window into problem-solving, as they reflect the creators’ thought processes and designs.

All three of us had an interest in engineering from the get-go, even if it was just taking things apart to see how they worked,” Mpopo added. He further shared that his middle school lacked any STEM programs, making his engagement in this initiative a significant turning point in his academic journey.

While Beardstown High School had a previous STEM program, Evans revealed that it failed to gain the same level of traction as the robotics club. Diaz pointed out that the robotics program stands as one of the few STEM-related offerings in their school, emphasizing the need for more such opportunities.

Shaw acknowledged that such programs face challenges, particularly in smaller schools like Beardstown. The initial costs and the search for educators willing to sponsor these initiatives can be formidable barriers. However, Shaw remains hopeful as robotics programs gain momentum across schools. He emphasized that neither students nor teachers need to be experts in the field to participate.

Beardstown district is willing to extend a helping hand to other districts in the region looking to establish their own robotics programs. Shaw, though not a robotics expert himself, seized this opportunity for the benefit of his students and the broader educational community.

In Beardstown, the robotics club is not just building robots; it’s constructing futures filled with STEM potential and fostering a community of young innovators.


The Beardstown High School robotics program exemplifies the growing importance of STEM education in today’s market. By nurturing young minds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, this initiative not only prepares students for future careers but also addresses the increasing demand for STEM skills in various industries. As such programs gain momentum, they contribute to the overall growth and competitiveness of the STEM education market.