Ozarks Life: Camdenton High School robotics team spreads holiday cheer

LASER 3284 has been sending flower bouquets to brighten the community.
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 8:42 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 18, 2021 at 9:47 AM CST
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CAMDENTON, Mo. (KY3) - It is better to give than to receive. That’s very popular this time of the year.

There’s a group of high school students in Camden County who are doing just that; making sure some loved ones are not overlooked.

It’s a robotics team with a huge heart.

“Oh, they’re fantastic,” Camdenton LASER 3284 head coach Jim Jackson said.

LASER stands for Laker Afterschool Science, Engineering, and Robotics. It’s Camdenton High School’s FIRST team. FIRST is an international organization which is For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

At its core using STEM academics to create robots and show science and technology can be fun.

“We want to promote STEM in FIRST,” junior Ella Westhusing said. “Kind of help those kids show it can be cool. And it’s not only for nerds.”

“It’s been absolutely life-changing for me,” senior Nick Faiferlick said.

The list of awards LASER’s won is long. But it’s not the past this team is concerned. It’s making an impact in the present.

“These are some of the best kids that I think I could probably find to work within the high school,” assistant coach Stephanie Baldwin said.

“We are consistently doing outreach within our community,” Faiferlick said. “But you really don’t see the other side of it.”

Along with the robot part of FIRST, there’s also the Chairman’s Award which is given to a model team. LASER has won it many times. And its work in the community is a big reason why.

This year they want to continue the message of positivity from the late co-founder of FIRST, Woodie Flowers.

“So we decided to have a little wordplay with that and create FIRST Flowers,” Faiferlick said. “Which was a way to sort of share his legacy within our community.”

“We are taking flowers, that have either been donated or purchased through the program,” Westhusing said, “along with vases, where we are putting them together making bouquets.”

“As well as some handmade cards to give to our local nursing home as well as cancer patients at a local hospital to help boost morale,” Faiferlick continued.

The teens have made a few trips to the Cancer Center at Lake Regional in Osage Beach.

“So what can we do to brighten their day,” Westhusing asked. “So this is what we came up with.”

Can you imagine the look on the patients’ faces when they saw a waiting room full of colorful flowers?

“Flowers bring life and energy to any space,” TJ Sweet, the director of the Lake Regional Cancer Center Service Line said. “And that’s what our patients need the most is really some sort of encouragement and something to look forward to. And it also reminds them of maybe some blooming and brighter times in their lives.”

The stories are the same at Arrowhead Senior Living. A little gift to brighten a resident’s day.

“To see them choose that kind of a group to say let’s bring some joy to them,” Baldwin said, “that’s also really special.”

The students leave the flowers in the lobby and head home. The teens aren’t been able to meet any of the residents or patients right now. But honestly, that’s not why they’re doing this project.

“Just getting the letters back where it said, ‘that brightens my day,’ Jackson said, “it touches the heart, right?”

“To know that you made somebody’s day,” Westhusing said, “it’s amazing.”

LASER hopes this kind of work will lead more people to spread positivity in their community.

“We tell everybody where they come from,” Sweet said, “and that’s even more amazing; that it’s coming from teenagers not just a generous person in the community. But somebody who’s younger, who’s already giving back.”

Camdenton LASER 3284 is hoping to continue this project into the spring, but it needs help with donations. You can reach out to Camdenton High School if you’d like to help out. CLICK HERE for donations.

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