Bonham robotics teacher makes most of Fuel Your School

Bonham Middle School Robotics Coach Joshua Wimberley was recently awarded funding through Fuel Your School to buy some laptops that will let his students reprogram their robots on the fly.

Chevron’s U.S. Fuel Your School program is a collaboration between Chevron and that helps fund eligible classroom projects in several U.S. markets where Chevron has retail operations.

Throughout October, Chevron contributes $1 for each fuel purchase of eight or more gallons at participating Chevron and Texaco stations, up to a specified amount in each community, to help fund eligible classroom projects at local public schools.

In 2017, $200,000 was generated through the Fuel Your School program to help fund 254 classroom projects, including 123 focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), to help connect real-world experiences to classroom learning for 29,447 students at 66 public schools in Midland and Ector counties.

Wimberley, who also coaches soccer and cross country for seventh and eighth-grade students, has 93 students in the robotics program — four sections of a little more than 23 seventh and eighth-grade students per section. Robotics is restricted to seventh and eighth grade, but he said he has talked to Principal James Ramage about having an introductory course for sixth-graders so they can grow into the team.

Wimberley said this is his first year coaching the robotics team. Having moved over from the math department, he took over from Julia Kelton, who retired last year, has previous experience with Fuel Your School and was familiar with He used the program to replace some antiquated equipment in the science department.

This year’s competition, set for Jan. 20, requires students to make changes in their programs.

“They have a mystery task that the robot has to complete. They’re given a sealed envelope by the referee. They open it and it’s a simple programming instruction, but it has to be done on the field in front of the referee. The robot has to complete that task before they do anything else,” Wimberley said.

“The robots are autonomous. As soon as the student presses the button to start the program, they’re hands off for the next two minutes as the robot completes all its challenge. … It was fortunate that I’d written the grant and Chevron stepped up and funded three laptops,” Wimberley said.

Before he started teaching, Wimberley was a firefighter and owned an insurance agency.

“… When I came on to campus, I didn’t see students as something to be educated. I see our students as the product that our business puts out. When we’re looking at our taxpayers and our employers and our community, to me those are our shareholders. Those are the people that we’re responsible to put out a good product,” Wimberley said.

If the school is graduating students who are workforce ready and able to contribute to the community, so much the better, he added.

The next robotics competition will be Jan. 20 at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

This year’s theme is “Mission to Mars.” The robot students will build is an unmanned Mars lander. There are a myriad of tasks the robot has to complete with obstacles and an alien life form thrown in.

Wimberley said his goal is to get the students to teach themselves.

“We’re real big on deadlines. I don’t give them a lot of redirection of, ‘Hey, stay on task. Stay on task.’ I give them a project they’ve got x number of days to complete the project, and when the deadline’s due, it’s due. If you chose to spend your time poorly that’s going to be reflected in your grading,” Wimberley said.

“That’s the other part of the equation is teaching them time management and respect for deadlines,” he added.

Seventh-graders Isaiah Rodarte and Xavier Sanchez are enjoying the class.

Sanchez said he thinks he will be able to use some of what he learned when he gets older and both think the team will fare well at competition.

“I’m excited,” Rodarte said. “I think we’ll do good.”

Emilio and Julian Parra work on code to run the software for the Mindstorms robots at Bonham Middle School recently. The robotics team’s next competition will be Jan. 20 at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

Ruth Campbell/Odessa American

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