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Prior to enrolling in a Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Introduction to Engineering (IED) class as a junior at Butler High School in Butler, Missouri, Jeremy Shaffer often struggled with his schoolwork despite working hard and getting plenty of help. That class changed Jeremy’s direction. He started working with Autodesk’s Inventor software and before long, he began finishing assignments early, helping the other students, and experimenting on his own. “From that moment on,” Jeremy’s teacher, Neta Apple, said, “Jeremy had a different attitude about himself and his future.” He joined the school’s Technology Student Association (TSA) chapter, who elected Jeremy vice president last year.
With Jeremy and several other students in mind, Mrs. Apple went to the principal, Mr. Oates, to get permission to start a VEX team. “We had no experience working with VEX,” Jeremy said. “We didn’t know how to start, or how to program.” The team pulled together and with some help from the team at Belton High School, they began to make progress. Two weeks before the first match of the season Belton’s VEX coach challenged the Butler team to build a robot that could drive in the event. Jeremy and other teammates spent many hours after school and before school working on the robot, even arranging an overnight lock-in. As a result of their efforts, the team built two robots that could drive. “One [robot] would sometimes manage to launch a ball into the net,” Mrs. Apple said, “and the other was able to gather balls for an alliance partner and score single points.”
When a slot at the Missouri State VEX Robotics Championship opened up at the last minute, they jumped at the opportunity to compete at that level. All 450 Butler students lined up around the gym to give the team high-fives. The team’s day at the state championship didn’t go very well, but they had so much fun and learned so much that it hardly mattered.
Through participation in PLTW, TSA, and VEX, Jeremy became a leader known for his determination and capabilities. “He has found out he can do things he never dreamed,” said Mrs. Apple. After graduating, Jeremy continued to work on the family farm over the summer. He attended FFA leadership training camp and has continued to help out with his former team.
This semester Jeremy began college at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, where he studies law enforcement and criminal investigation. “I still plan to be involved with the college’s STEM club,” Jeremy said, “I feel without my involvement in robotics I wouldn’t have felt ready to take the next step in my path to a higher education.”
Jeremy’s former team members started their second VEX Robotics season with a new addition—a field recently purchased by the school. The team will host the Bearbotics Mid-Winter Challenge in January. “I think that with the experience gained last year, and with their determination,” said Mrs. Apple, “they are going to make big steps toward becoming a more competitive team.”