St. James starts Vex Robotics program

Submitted St. James Catholic Regional School students and staff stand with a $1,500 check from The Dow Corning Foundation, a donor-advised fund with the Central Kentucky Community Foundation. The donation will go toward the school’s new robotics program.

Students at St. James Cath­o­lic Regional School will have the opportunity to compete in Vex Robotics as the program kicks off its first year.

“It’s a great thing kids can get involved with,” Vex adviser Paul Kirchner said, adding the St. James program will serve as a stepping stone for students.

Sister Marie Hannah Sei­ler, the school’s principal, said it was decided to start a program after seeing how well the school’s graduates have done in Vex competitions. An­drew Schreacke, a Central Har­din High School senior and St. James graduate, placed third at the Vex World Cham­p­ion­ships in April.

Schreacke and other students are helping with the St. James program. Kirchner said Schreacke shared his engineering notebook with the students, which catalogs all the work done on the robot.

“Ours aren’t that detailed,” Kirchner said.

Kirchner said he was surprised to find out how big Vex Robotics was at the high schools and how well the Hardin County high schools have done.

On Tuesday, the Dow Corning Foundation donated $1,500 to the Vex Robotics program. Kirchner said the money will go toward additional equipment, another robot, laptops and game materials so students can practice.

Kirchner said while the Vex IQ program is costly, it’s not as expensive as the high school program. Students from third to eighth grade can join the robotics program.

Dow Corning set up the donor-advised fund with the Central Kentucky Community Foundation in 2013 and supports science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs.

Foundation president Davette Swiney presented the check to St. James teachers and students.

“Dow Corning has supported a lot of technology efforts in the community,” she said.

The Dow Corning Foun­da­tion awards grants on a rolling basis rather than once a year.

Sixth-grade teacher Patricia Kirchner said the Vex program will help students grow.

“It gives them a chance to be challenged,” she said.

Students have been working on their robots since the start of the school year. They said they’ve finished the easier part of building the robot and now have to construct a claw that will pick up the rings, which is part of the game.

Students said getting the robot to move forward and do what they wanted it to do was a big accomplishment for them.

Many students said they joined Vex to learn about programming.

The Vex program is one piece of a new STEM initiative at St. James. The school also has STEM club where students have been building bottle rockets they will launch next week.

Katherine Knott can be reached at 270-505-1747 or

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