Niles High School robotics coach surprised with grant

NILES — A Niles High School librarian and robotics coach had a particularly surprising morning Friday when a Cassopolis-based company interrupted her work to present her with a $1,000 check.

Karla Porter was awarded the grant from Midwest Energy & Communications. Porter had applied months ago with the hope of aiding the robotics team she coaches: the Niles Nordic Knights.

“I was so excited,” Porter said. “It is just a tremendous relief to get funding. When you are in charge of funding for a whole club and you work and work at getting grants, it is exciting to get one.”

Porter was not the only one excited by the news. Several students from the team joined the company in surprising her. When Porter received the check, Hayden Beckwith, the team’s business manager, leaped into the air.

The Niles Nordic Knights are competing in the FRC FIRST Robotics Competition, which challenges youth to build a robot that can complete a series of challenges. This year’s theme is Operation: Deep Space. The team is currently in the midst of a six-week build season. Porter said the grant would likely be used to help them buy new parts for their robot.

Porter said the team needs to raise about $15,000 to cover entry fees, travel, food and building the robot.

This year, Porter said she hopes to see the team accomplish new goals.

“We are looking to do better than we did last year,” Porter said. “We are looking to hopefully build our robot sooner, so we have more practice time and can compete better with the bigger teams.”

Porter has been a librarian at Niles High School for the past six years. She has served as a mentor on the robotics team for the same amount of time and became a coach this year. 

“I just love robotics,” Porter said. “I love how it gets kids from any gender and social, economic group [to participate]. I have a variety of kids coming together for the same purpose.”

The robotics team is always looking for donations. Porter encouraged anyone interested in contributing to contact Niles High School at (269) 683-2894.

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