Math teacher by day and robotics team head coach by night, Winona State University alumnus Mark Moulton is a prime example of a teacher going the extra mile for his students—or perhaps programming the robot to go the extra mile.

Moulton, who graduated from WSU in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Teaching and mathematics secondary teaching, has been inspiring students to build and compete robots for the past eight years as head coach of Sir Lancer Bots, La Crescent High School’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics team.

Moulton works with students each spring to build a robot and enter it in competitions. Building robots can be very challenging, and Moulton admits he doesn’t know all the answers to building the perfect robot.

“Our goal is to guide them. The students have to problem solve, make it work, and I learn right along with the them,” Moulton said. “I just really enjoy learning about creating the robots and from the kids. That’s what makes it fun.”

About 25 high school students are on the Sir Lancer Bots robotics team. The team welcomes students of all interests, and they contribute their skills to the club in many ways. Students manage the team, design and build the robot, program the code for the robot, construct the wiring in the robot, write the newsletter, and even conduct team marketing and community outreach.

Along with Moulton, Sir Lancer Bots robotics team is coached and supervised by Randy Hafner and Moulton’s wife, Kristi, who is also a WSU alumna.

In January, thousands of robotic teams across the world were given a kit of parts and a game to play. The students have six weeks to design, build, program and test the robot. The game changes each year, so it requires a new robot, new computer programs, new strategy and all new challenges.

Robots completed by Feb. 21 can be entered to compete in the Seven Rivers Regional, a three-day competition being held for the first time ever April 13-15 at the La Crosse Center. This competition, which is free and open to the public, will host up to 56 teams from around the nation.

The competition will need a lot of volunteers to be successful, said Moulton, who serves as Executive Director of the Seven Rivers Robotic Coalition, the organizer of the competition. “Everything from handing out and collecting safety glasses, to being a robot inspector that does safety and compliance checks on individual robots.”

Moulton and other members of the coalition, which is made up of 10 local robotics teams, have high hopes for the event and are excited to see it finally come to fruition.

“It is something that the Seven Rivers Robotics Coalition and I have been working towards for eight years,” Moulton said.

For more information or to be a volunteer at the Seven Rivers Regional, contact Mark Moulton at mark.moulton@isd300.k12.mn.us.

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Brian Waldbillig

Brian is a Public Relations major and Communication Studies minor from Farmington, MN. His hobbies include photography, hiking and going to concerts.