WildStang Robotics Team Tries for Another Title

Article excerpt

Byline: Deborah Donovan ddonovan@dailyherald.com

Engineers are not known for getting emotional. So when asked why he's dedicated years to mentoring the high school robotics team WildStang, Dan Rooney talks about the importance of introducing young people to math, science and engineering.

But the pride in his eyes when he mentions youngsters he has worked with reveals it's really the kids who bring him back.

Rooney, a mechanical engineer for Motorola Solutions in Schaumburg, started working with the FIRST Robotics team when it started in 1992. His boss encouraged him to participate, and the Schaumburg-based company continues to support the movement around the world.

But the youngest of Rooney's three children was 3 months old then, so it's understandable that his wife, Sue, ruled every now and then he didn't have time for the team. Since 2007, however, he's been a fixture.

"I like working with kids," said Rooney, a few nights before the team left for the FIRST Robotics national championship in St. Louis, which wraps up Saturday.

"Teach a kid something, and you see the light bulb go off. Show him and next time he knows how to do it. You get freshmen who can't even look you in the eye and can't talk to you. By the time they are seniors they are very confident."

WildStang, a Northwest Suburban High School District 214 team based at Rolling Meadows High School, has a proud heritage to uphold. The team won national championships in 2003 and 2009 and the chairman's trophy as best overall team in 2006, as well as two second places.

Rooney says some WildStang alumni come to cheer at competitions. A few scout other teams, keeping detailed records of their strengths and weaknesses.

Then there's the girl everyone told to yell when she needed to communicate during competition. "I am yelling," she responded in what the adults considered a normal voice, but they were so proud she had gotten to the point where she would argue with them.

Another young lady told Rooney that thanks to WildStang she already knew most of what they were teaching in her introductory engineering class in college.

"We give them exposure to what engineers do in the real world," said Rooney.

Maddie Hume, a sophomore at Rolling Meadows High School, insists being on the team of engineering prospects has helped her develop interpersonal skills. She explains her duties have included promoting the team in the community, soliciting sponsorships and selling raffle tickets.

The team has 68 members with jobs from software to mechanical to electrical and animation, and 39 got to go to St. …