Pictured from left are Betty Baker (Ashley Furniture), Andy Baker (Ashley Furniture), Mark Moulton (7 Rivers Robotics Coalition) and Kris Gengler (Ashley Furniture).

Ashley Furniture sponsors robotics programs for local school districts


$30,000 supports 21 area middle schools and high schools

A new team is forming in Trempealeau County as it aims to inspire young minds in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). With financial and volunteer support from Ashley Furniture Industries, high school students from Arcadia, Blair-Taylor, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, Independence and Whitehall school districts will have the opportunity to compete in its first ever FIRST Robotics competition this winter through the 7 Rivers Robotics Coalition. On Saturday, December 2, Ashley presented the Trempealeau County team, known as TC Robotics, with a sponsorship check of $10,000 that will help defer the costs of competition, supplies and traveling.

FIRST Robotics is volunteer-driven and encourages students to be leaders in science and technology. Through the guidance of Ashley and area school mentors, students will learn how to design, build, program and test a robot that will then be used to compete against other schools throughout the state and country. Students are also required to operate the program as if they are running their own business where they will learn and apply concepts of marketing, financial literacy and website development and obtain sponsorships.

As the official kickoff approaches on January 6, the challenging criteria for a finished robot will be announced to TC Robotics along with thousands of other competing teams across the country. Each team will have six weeks to design, build and test their robot to the specifications required through the competition. Once the six-week build concludes, each team is required to bag up their robot until they arrive at their first competition.

“Not only are students learning about the design, programming and building of a robot, they are also building self confidence, teamwork and leadership skills,” said Andy Baker, automation and robotics manager at Ashley Furniture. “There are many great career options that can evolve around STEM education.”

Nine other area school districts are also receiving a $10,000 sponsorship check from Ashley through the 7 Rivers Robotics Coalition for each of their FIRST Robotics teams. Included school districts are Caledonia, Holmen, Houston, La Crescent, La Crosse Aquinas, Onalaska Luther, Onalaska, West Salem and Westby.

Additionally, Ashley donated $10,000 to provide area middle schools with VEX Robotics and allow them to begin a local competition called Greater Western Wisconsin VEX IQ Challenge.

Receiving schools included Arcadia, Arcadia Holy Family, Blair-Taylor, Cochrane-Fountain City, Eleva-Strum, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau and Independence.

As manufacturing continues to advance, support of educating the current and next generation of leaders has become more crucial, organizers said. Ashley and the Wanek family have made several contributions in the area of education. In addition to the support of STEM initiatives, millions of dollars in funds and in-kind services have been provided to assist local schools and universities, and more than 2,000 scholarships during the past 10 years have helped offset the escalating costs of higher education.

Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc.
Ashley feels that every person deserves more value for their money. Established in 1945, Ashley is one of the largest manufacturers of home furnishings in the world, and was recently named one of America’s Best Employers by Forbes in 2017. From design through fulfillment, Ashley is committed to delivering the world’s best home furnishing values, selection and service, and earning the loyalty and trust of its customers every day. Visit Ashley online at www.ashleyfurniture.com and like Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., on Facebook.

About FIRST®

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $50 million in college scholarships, the nonprofit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition for students in grades 9-12, FIRST® Tech Challenge for grades 7-12, FIRST®LEGO® League for grades 4-8, and FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. for kindergarten through fourth grade. Gracious Professionalism® is a way of doing things that encourages high quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to www.firstinspires.org.

About VEX Robotics
VEX Robotics is a leading provider of educational and competitive robotics products to schools, universities and robotics teams around the world. Its VEX IQ and VEX EDR product lines span elementary, middle, and high schools with accessible, scalable, and affordable robotics solutions. Beyond science and engineering principles, a VEX Robotics project encourages teamwork, leadership and problem solving among groups. It allows educators to easily customize projects to meet the level of students’ abilities as they inspire and prepare the STEM problem-solvers of tomorrow.


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