Toledo Technology Academy is looking for new students and using one of its proudest assets: the school's robotics team.
The magnet engineering and technology school has been giving tours to eighth- grade classes and is rolling out the robotics hardware and team members to make the case for attending the school.
Last week eighth-grade students from Old Orchard Elementary School visited the school, at 3310 Upton Ave., and the robotics team represented the school at a technology fair at the University of Toledo for eighth graders. The academy is to hold an open house today from 3 to 8 p.m., to which the public is invited.
TTA is making its pitch to eighth graders because students can enter the school only as ninth graders so they can complete the four-year program. As a magnet school, it has no elementary feeder schools and can accept students from anywhere in Ohio.
Dale Price, a math teacher and coach of the robotics team, said the school's enrollment is about 175.
"We would like it to be over 200," he explained. "We think we're the district's best-kept secret. If we can get two students from each elementary school in the Toledo district, we're golden.
"We're looking for kids with an interest in engineering and technology and a C average. They don't have to be geniuses," he continued. "We understand that a lot of kids in a lot of schools in Toledo believe it's not cool to get good grades. It's cool here to get good grades."
He noted that many students who were bored in grade school blossom at the academy. He cited a girl from Deveaux Elementary who barely managed to graduate from grade school but has a 3.7 grade-point average at the academy.
Students must maintain a 3.3 grade-point average to be on the robotics team, which won the FIRST Robotics world championship in 2001 in Orlando, Fla. This year's FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) world competition was held last month in St. Louis. The academy team finished 40th in its division out of 100, Mr. Price said.
Matt Empie, 16 and a junior, was the team's programmer. He also drove the robot, which shot a foam basketball into hoops. He said he enjoys demonstrating the robot to eighth graders and sharing his experiences with them.
"I would recommend this to anybody," said Matt, who is from West Toledo, adding that he would like to be an inventor, but might be a career programmer.
Alex Foulke, 17, is a junior from Perrysburg and robotics team member who has been speaking on behalf of the academy. He said his robotics training has helped teach him to solve problems.
Gary Thompson, academy director, noted that the buzzword in educational circles today is STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.
"The robotics team incorporates all of that, and the kids think it is cool," he said.