Picayune School Board of Trustees of gets update on Team CHAOS


During Tuesday’s Picayune School Board of Trustees meeting, the board received an overview of the Robotics program. Team CHAOS coach and mentor, Karen Balch told the board that the team is so thankful for the support they receive from the school system and the community.

CHAOS, which stands for Commitment to Helping Advance the Outreach of STEM, had 32 team members this year consisting mostly of Picayune School District students, but also had one student from Pearl River Central as well some area home schoolers. Balch said four former members are now working as mentors as well as six professionals from NASA and other engineering related organizations and companies.

Balch, in her first year leading CHAOS, said the team also had a huge increase in the number of young ladies that participated in the Robotics.

Just six weeks after building thei robot, CHAOS had to go to competition and were able to make it to the semi-finals in Orlando. After the team came home, two weeks later they went to the Bayou Regional where we had a perfect record and were the only team that went through the competition with no losses.

With the win at regionals, CHAOS qualified for the world championships in Houston Texas where there were six divisions. CHAOS made it to the semi-finals which put the team in the top 6% of all the world in Robotics.

Maureen Pollitz and Michelle Carter are also a huge part of the success of the team during the past years and this year. In fact, when Balch had to be away from the team for about two weeks due to a family medical emergency, Pollitz stepped right back in to lead the team in Houston in Balch’s absence, while ensuring all the travel arrangements were in place and the team’s robot was shipped to Houston.

Balch made note of the many facets of work that CHAOS uses in their preparation for competition and normal day to day activities.

“We do a lot more than just compete as a robotics team, and even though we won several recognitions this year, I want to point out that we focus on STEM education which includes computer programming, engineering, mechanics, carpentry, and all the facets of business.”

Balch said that even though the season is over, they decided as a team to keep going and do other things. Last week, the team hosted a Camp CHAOS at Nicholson Elementary and had 24 students enrolled in the camp.

Balch’s husband Donald, who has been helping the team for 11 years, said “the ideas these kids can come up with in 6 weeks is just amazing”.

Superintendent Dean Shaw said he wanted to thank the local business for all the donations they have given to support the Robotics team. Shaw also said that he went to the competition in New Orleans and it was just as exciting as playing for a state championship in football or basketball.

“It’s unbelievable when you get in the arena and feel the excitement. It’s a great experience,” Shaw added.

Karen Balch stressed that the teams support one another while they compete and that is one of the things that FIRST Robotics organization promotes is working together. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Balch said that the way the teams compete is referred to as “gracious professionalism and coopetition”.

“It teaches these young people that it’s really not about yourself and whether you win or lose, you help somebody when they need something, ” Balch stated.

When asked on what the team needs help with, Balch said the team needs more business mentors.

Team members include: Koen Al-Jabi, Jonathan Arcement, Kolby Balch, Megan Butler, Joshua Comeaux, Justin Dickerson, David Fisk, Robyn Fisk, Joseph Forsman, Neil Frierson, Cady Galloway, Makayla Gutierrez, Kaitlyn Harrison, Kalyia Hathorn, Theresa Hays, Blake Head, Drew Helgerson, Brooke Jamison, Jessica Helgerson, Maggie LaVigne, Mason Musmeci, Noah Pittman, Jazmine Riascos, Katherine Riascos, William Smith, Kayleigh Strouse, Kailey Travis, Galen Watts, Tyler Wilbanks, Jason Pierce, and Mya Votano.

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