STARBASE 2.0, STARBASE Oklahoma, Tahlequah
|Northeastern Oklahoma State University senior James Townsend (center), a volunteer for STARBASE 2.0 mentoring program at Woodall Middle School in Tahlequah, receives an Outstanding Mentor Award from Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Chairman David L. Boren (left) and President Anil Gollahalli during Oklahoma Mentor Day at the Capitol. (Photo by Travis Caperton, Oklahoma State Capitol)|
STARBASE 2.0 combines STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities with a relationship-rich, school-based environment serving at-risk youth in sixth through eighth grades. The program uses a team mentoring approach, pairing teams of three to four students with one adult mentor for four hours each month to focus on STEM projects, team-building and goal setting.
When STARBASE initiated the after-school club at Woodall Middle School, the STEM project of choice was “all things robotics,” said Mike Ridley, STARBASE 2.0 instructor and coordinator. “Mentors were faced with a very steep learning curve with Lego Mindstorms, but when VEX robotics kits became part of the club’s equation, we were in way over our heads!”
That’s when James, the president of the NSU “RoboHawks” robotics club, volunteered to lead STARBASE mentors and students alike through the world of VEX construction, programming and competition. “We’re not sure that we could have done all this without James’s knowledge and willingness to lead,” Ridley said.
“James was essential in the programming of our robots,” added Caleb Cummins, a STARBASE 2.0 mentor. “Wiithout him, our robots would’ve just been odd-looking paperweights!”
Through his involvement in RoboHawks, James has also competed at local, regional, national and international levels, attending the VEX World Championship Robotics Competition in 2014 and 2015. In addition to his activity with the NSU robotics club, he has also been an officer in Kappa Mu Epsilon (Mathematics Honor Society) as well as president of the NSU Physics Club.
Through his teaching internships, James has become involved with the Project Lead the Way pre-engineering program and, in addition to supporting the Woodall STARBASE 2.0 club’s projects, serves as an advisor for the Tahlequah High School Aerospace Club. When asked how he is able to juggle all these activities, James said, “I am ready to enter the education field and be where I am supposed to be: educating bright minds. It has been a delight to be surrounded by such great educators at NSU and Tahleqhah High School and Woodall. I look forward to what prospects are to come… There is nothing more gratifying than guiding a mind to the development of understanding."
One of James’ mentees praised him for making STARBASE 2.0 so much fun. “He has shown us all kinds of things we can do with robots. I really liked it when he showed us the YouTube videos of his VEX robots, too!”