Eight Winters Robotics members inducted into Honors Society

Superintendent Rody Boonchuoy (left) joined Miles Mariani, Jack Felsen, Jack Tuel, Ben Nelson, Jesus Cruz, Julian Garcia, Liliana Rodriguez, Teacher Diane Halsey and Jack Bryant when they were inducted to the International Robotics Honors Society. (Courtesy photo)

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On Dec. 16, eight members of the Winters Robotics Club were inducted into the International Robotics Honors Society. Winters Robotics Vice President Laura Mariani discussed with the Winters Express what this honor means for the students inducted and for the Winters Robotics Club as a whole.

The Club is made up of teams of two to three students, who then get to compete in robotics competitions across Northern California and the country. The club’s most recent accolade the club received is having eight of its students inducted into the International Robotics Honors Society.

“The International Robotics Honors Society is a recognition of students that are achieving high-level skills in the robotics world,” Mariani said.

The inductees included Miles Mariani, Jack Felsen, Jack Tuel, Ben Nelson, Jesus Cruz, Julian Garcia, Liliana Rodriguez and Jack Bryant.

In order for students to join, they must apply to become members of the honor society which begins with a lengthy process for the applicants to prove not only are they skilled in robotics, but also demonstrate well-rounded scholastic qualities.

“They had to get recommendations from teachers, they had to be interviewed, they had to show their academic standing, they had to recite back what they’ve done with robotics,” Mariani said. “It’s more than just competing at these robotics (tournaments), it’s about learning teamwork, learning character development — the skill set that they have to apply to this honor society is going to be a skill set they have for the real world.”

For the eight students who succeeded in being inducted, Mariani says this honor puts them among a small cohort of other inductees since there are less than 40 carters in the United States with chapters that have inductees.

“It’s a small percentage of schools that get this distinction, so it was a huge honor for Winters to get the charter and it was a huge honor for these kids to be recognized,” Mariani said.

Even for those in the club who have yet to be inducted, Mariani said this honor is still something the whole of Winters Robotics can take pride in.

“It really exemplifies what a strong robotics program and engineering program we have at Winters High School,” Mariani said. “It’s an exciting time for the school district to have such a strong engineering program.”

The Winters Robotics Club, as Mariani put it, “is a dynamic, student-driven robotics team opening doors for creativity through engineering” that includes students from sixth through 12th grades. Mariani said the club’s “fantastic coach” Dianne Halsey has “led the team to multiple awards, they go to a lot of different tournaments, state qualifications.”

Mariani also noted that the Winters Robotics Club has stiff regional competition that helps the teams hone their skills.

“Northern California has a really high-level competitive robotics world for high school students, so when they go to these competitions, they’re competing with some of the best teams nationally,” Mariani said.

But the club has still managed to make a name for itself, with most recently in 2022 when one of their teams qualified to compete at the VEX Robotics world championship.

Mariani says Winters Robotics is also dedicated to “giving back as well” by participating in other activities in Winters, including mentoring Winters Middle School students as well as volunteering in the community, which includes volunteering with Yolo Food Bank on Wednesdays.

Mariani shared gratitude from the club for the community, the school district, and parents who support the club, saying “we’re very grateful for the support from the community and from the school district, it’s been wonderful to see them competing.”

“The experience these kids have now as members of the Robotics Club, this just opens up a world of opportunity for them,” Mariani stated, sharing how the club has helped put the high school and Winters in general on the map.

“We see some big high schools at these competitions, and we’re often asked, ‘where’s Winters?’ so we tell them and they say, ‘Wow, you have a robotics program?’ and it’s just an amazing thing to have this small school district really pushing for these students to succeed,” Mariani said.

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