Winneconne VEX Robotics Clubs and Their Importance To Our Community

Posted on Posted in Chapter News, Meetings

This April, join the NE Wisconsin Chapter as they invite the Winneconne VEX Robotics Club to show how robotics and technology are being brought to the youth in our community via hands-on learning experiences.

The leaders of the club will share how the club was formed, the growth they have seen in the program and the impact these students will be having in our community as they expand their knowledge in the area of technology.

Speakers are Angela Zanto, Susie Martini-Loker, Mike Nielsen, and Mark Hostettler.

Angela Zanto is a Facilities Operations Coordinator at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., where she oversees assignment and execution of building maintenance and she has an Interior Design degree from the New York Institute of Art & Design; she’s also a Winneconne School alumni. She became interested in creating a VEX program after her sons were looking for an after school program that was not sports-related. After catching an interview on the news, her family decided to check out a local event in Appleton. After seeing all the value of the program and the life skills it offered students she reached out to the principal of the Winneconne Elementary School to gain support and find a meeting location. She wrote a school news article to search out interested students. She then met with a local non-profit organization for funding assistance for the first season. Surprisingly, a few interested students grew quickly into 50, 3rd through 5th-grade students participating in the VEX IQ program and 25, 6th and 7th-grade students participating in the VEX VRC program. The program is now in its third season and she was fortunate to find three amazing volunteers and local businesses and non-profits to help her manage the growth of the program.

Susie Martini Loker is para-professional in the Winneconne Community School District, where she assists educators in all learning areas of the school day. She is also an Account Executive with MARCO Promos in Oshkosh, WI. Susie earned her BA of Spanish from the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, UT. Susie has been involved with the program since its inception in 2016, as a parent volunteer, coach, and fundraiser. In 2018, Susie was approached by Angela Zanto about being more involved regarding the future of the program, specifically as an Assistant Coordinator. Currently, Susie handles the fundraising aspect of the program, growing the endowment and seeking partnerships, both private and institutional, within the community. She also handles any parent/coach issues should they arise. She also is the liaison between the school district and the VEX program.

Mike Nielsen is an IT Infrastructure Engineer at J.J. Keller & Associates where he helps to oversee the IT systems, servers, and network for the company and its multiple locations. He has a bachelor’s degree in Management of Information Systems from Winona State University in Minnesota. Mike was approached by Angela Zanto in 2017 about coaching a Middle School VEX Club as they needed coaches for new VRC program. He agreed to coach after some research and internal thought and was one of three coaches for the VRC program’s inaugural season. Due to the growth of the program, Mike was asked and accepted the position of Middle School VRC Advisor for the 2018-2019 season and moving forward. Mike works to coordinate the majority day-to-day activities for the Middle School Program including finding volunteer coaches/mentors, parts management and ordering, supervising practice days, and assisting teams at tournaments.

Mark Hostettler is an IT Consultant for Tech Guides, Inc. where he supports small businesses’ IT needs including server configuration and support, network configuration and support, database design, programming and support, application development and support, and hardware support. He became interested in working with the VEX IQ Club after receiving an email from the Winneconne Elementary School describing the program being put together by Angela Zanto. Further research into the VEX organization made me see the uniqueness of the whole program and how well thought out the program was. The cooperative competition was the key to teaching youth how to serve their communities in the future no matter what career they pursued. He immediately wanted to be involved. He volunteered as a coach for 2 years and was asked to be the IQ Advisor his third year.