MW's Echsner honored for his dedication to teaching, science

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By Alex Wimsatt

MOUNT WASHINGTON – Over the past six years Mount Washington resident David Echsner has devoted himself to helping students expand their minds and learn valuable skills through the science of robotics.

Echsner, who coaches the Kentucky Engineers of Tomorrow, a competitive robotics team made up of students from Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham and Shelby Counties, believes robotics can help students reach their full potential.

As a robotics coach and a health systems manager with national biotech company, Amgen, Echsner was recently recognized for his impact in the community and his dedication to science.

The Amgen Foundation chose Echsner as one of only 11 employees nationwide for the 2011 Amgen Excellence in Volunteering Awards.

“It’s an honor,” Echsner said. “I think anybody would be overwhelmed with being recognized when you work for a company that has 15,000 employees worldwide.”

In recognition of Echsner’s service, the Amgen Foundation awarded $5,000 to Engineers of Tomorrow.

Echsner said that while the grant directly benefits Engineers of Tomorrow, future funding could eventually trickle down to other local teams, such as those in Bullitt County.

Today, only two Bullitt County schools have robotics teams: Bullitt East High School and Mount Washington Middle School.

Echsner, who has mentored the MWMS robotics team for more than three years, said he hopes that more local schools like BE and MWMS will start their own robotics teams.

Echsner said programs like Engineers of Tomorrow are much more than tinkering, they foster creativity and healthy competition. Additionally, he said students apply practical mathematical and scientific concepts that prepare them for careers in engineering.

Of the Engineers of Tomorrow’s six 2011 seniors, five of them accepted full scholarships to engineering schools. Incidentally, two of those students were from the Mount Washington area.

“The goal is to inspire students to explore their interest in math, science and engineering,” Echsner said. “That tells me we’re doing a lot of things right.”

There are $15 million in scholarships available to students who participate in For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) family of programs, which includes Engineers of Tomorrow.

On Saturday, the Engineers of Tomorrow will join Bullitt East High School, Mount Washington Middle School and 15 other robotics teams from around central Kentucky for the Mount Washington Regional Tournament robotics competition.

During the FIRST ® LEGO® League “Food Factor®” Challenge, teams will conduct research and build and program LEGO® MINDSTORMS robots to explore the ways in which food can become contaminated and propose real-world solutions for preventing or combating these contaminates.

Echsner said through hands-on experience and working in teams, participants will have the chance to explore a real-world issue to gain an appreciation for and interest in science and technology.

The FLL competition will be judged in four areas: project presentation; robot performance; technical design and programming of the robot; and teamwork.

Teams will have the opportunity to participate in the FIRST LEGO League World Festival, which will be held in conjunction with the FIRST Championship, April 25-28, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

The Mount Washington Regional FLL Tournament is being sponsored by Bullitt County Public School System along with many local corporate sponsors.

For more information about the Mount Washington Regional Tournament or Engineers of Tomorrow visit www.kyeot.com.