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Ann Boes isn’t afraid of robots

Ann Boes loves working with robots, as well as many other types of technology, and for more than a decade she has shared that love with 4-H kids and students from schools throughout the region.

Originally from Kansas City, Boes has a non-technological but seemingly effective way to recall how long she’s lived in the Parkland.

“Well… hmmm… let me think,” she said. “How old are my kids? OK, I’ve been in the Farmington area about 14 years.”

Next, Boes was asked the big question — why does she teach robotics to kids?

“My degree is in aerospace engineering, so I’m engineer,” she said. “We lived in Houston and I worked for Rockwell Space Operations. I worked on the space shuttle program for five years.

“Then, I’d always wanted to be a teacher, so I became a middle school math teacher and did that for a number of years. After that, I stayed home with my kids for several years. When they were little I started getting involved in 4-H. I just loved doing math and science with kids.”

According to Boes, she’s been teaching robotics to Parkland 4-H kids for 10 years.

Best known for coming up with the idea of the Robot and Technology Expo, held for the seventh year this past Saturday at Mineral Area College’s Bob Sechrest Field House, Boes said its purpose is to provide a venue for robotic competition to take place in the Parkland.

Students of all ages gather around a Lego table at the Robot and Technology Expo. No matter their level of mastery, there's something offered each year for children of all ages who attend.

Students of all ages gather around a Lego table at the Robot and Technology Expo. No matter their level of mastery, there’s something offered each year for children of all ages who attend.

“When I started doing robotics with kids, there weren’t any local competition opportunities,” she explained. “I had a team, but we had to travel, and it was hard for parents to come watch their kids. I just knew we needed some local competition opportunities.

“So, in 2012, we created the first one and it was at the fairgrounds. It wasn’t as big as it is now, but it was a lot of fun. Actually, some of our volunteers have been with us the whole time. It’s pretty amazing. It was part competition and part exhibition where kids came and just showed off things and had the opportunity to talk to adults who were interested in robotics.”

Since that first year, the expo has continued to grow beyond Boes’ expectations.

“Around four years ago we partnered with MAC and started offering it there,” she said. “It was a better layout and they’ve got a great facility there. They’re just an amazing partner to work with, and they really support local kids. It’s a great thing having our event there.

Asked how much time it takes to prepare for each year’s expo, Boes laughed and said, “We start in the fall. We got a little bit of a late start this year, unfortunately, but usually it takes a good six months. We’ve been doing it long enough now that some of the things don’t take as long.

A student attending Saturday's expo carefully places his robot in the competition area before the meet begins.

A student attending Saturday’s expo carefully places his robot in the competition area before the meet begins.

“We have tremendous volunteers for the event and we have great sponsors. It’s just a fun event — and, really, the kids get a lot out of it. I always hear from parents and coaches how much their kids are getting out of participating in robotics. Having a local event has been very meaningful.

Boes admitted that in past years there have been more demonstrators and exhibitors on hand at the expo.

“We didn’t have quite as many this year,” she said. “Part of the reason is our date changed quite a bit. We usually have this in April and it shifted to March. Many of our exhibitors were unavailable, but the goal has actually been, first, a local competition opportunity; and second, a chance to show off some technology and give family and kids an opportunity to see a lot of technology that they wouldn’t normally see — or have an opportunity to see — at a free event; and three, learn a little bit about how they can support children’s interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).”

Boes added that it’s also an opportunity to raise money to support the Lab:Revolution shop at The Factory in Farmington.

“At Lab:Revolution, which puts on the expo each year, our youth learn how to safely use tools as they develop a ‘maker mindset,’ an understanding of how things are made and confidence in their ability to learn and build anything,” she said.

According to Boes, there will definitely be another Robot and Technology Expo held in 2019.

“It’s a tradition and it’s a great opportunity,” she said. “We will definitely have it.”

“I just knew we needed some local competition opportunities.” — Ann Boes

Ann Boes answers a question posed by a student attending last weekend's Seventh Annual Robot and Technology Expo held in MAC's Bob Sechrest Field House. Around 150 kids from around the state participated

Ann Boes answers a question posed by a student attending last weekend’s Seventh Annual Robot and Technology Expo held in MAC’s Bob Sechrest Field House. Around 150 kids from around the state participated

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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