July 23, 2024

A rebuilding year for robotics: High school club sites set on fundraising

From left, Ashland High School robotics team members Davis Willeby, Ivo Westergaard-Vos, Arrow Brandstetter and Ethan Dille pose for a photo near the AHS quad. photo by Bob Palermini
November 8, 2023

Student ‘Team 3024’ needs to reach $15K goal to fund team, pay competition fees

Holly Dillemuth, 

Students at Ashland High School are fundraising to register for robotics team competitions in 2024, with specific plans to raise a total of $15,000 – enough funds to ensure they can compete next spring.

The student-led robotics club, known as FIRST Team 3024 and also as “My Favorite Team,” has already raised $7,200 of its overall goal. The group is looking to reach its full goal by Jan. 1. 

The club completely shut down during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many upperclassmen involved have since graduated, leaving the team in rebuilding mode. Students in the club are leading fundraising efforts to make sure they can compete in the spring.

“We have until Jan. 1 to raise the rest of our funds to be able to compete and bring as many students as can travel,” said C.J. Bussenkell, advisor and coach of the robotics club.

Each January, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) releases details about its newest “game challenge,” putting students around the world to the test. They have only weeks to design, fabricate, and test a robot to play the game in regional and international competitions during the spring. Competition allows them to face off at the regional and international levels and show off their skills.

Ashland High robotics team member Arrow Brandstetter, at left, shares about the robotics team as teammate Ivo Westergaard-Vos looks on. photo by Bob Palermini

The club teaches a variety of skills, including leadership, fundraising, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills and collaboration working together as a team.

“You spend four months out of the year learning all the tools and when you get to competition,” said Bussenkell, “you not only get to see that you’ve built something, you get to see that it works and you get to meet and connect with other kids in your age range that are also doing the exact same things.”

Davis Willeby, a junior, serves as co-president of the club. The club has been at the high school since 2001. 

“We’re trying to really figure out funding strategies because before COVID, we had connections with a lot of businesses,” Willeby said.

Many of the business connections also contributed skills, such as in fabrication and time and mentorship.

Ethan Dille, a junior, says he learned how to wire robots since becoming part of the team. photo by Bob Palermini

“We’ve kind of lost contact and we’re trying to re-up that,” he said.

In an email, Willeby said the team has been actively reaching out to local and large corporate businesses to generate more funds.

Willeby said that in years passed, Boeing had been a primary grant funds contributor, but that they have not renewed for this competition year, leaving behind a “hefty deficit.” 

“Team 3024 has been working hard to raise money, we have raised thousands to date,” Willeby said. “However, we are on the verge of feeling defeated.  We are coming together to reach out to our communities in an effort to support our team and and hoping you can help us get the word out to the Ashland and Rogue Valley community.”

Davis Willeby, a junior serving as co-president of Ashland High School’s robotics team, is helping lead fundraising efforts to raise $15,000, a portion of which will go toward registration fees for competition. photo by Bob Palermini

The team is especially grateful to donors who have given so far, including Louie’s Bar & Grill.

The team is also rebuilding after having one-quarter to half of its team graduate last school year.

Students have been talking to large corporations and small businesses, as well as sharing the fundraising message locally at Shop’n Kart.

Contributions to the team’s efforts are tax-deductible.

More info 
For more about the robotics club and how to give, go to
For more about FIRST robotics, go to

“This is the only career and technical education program that really exists at Ashland High School,” Willeby said.

The robotics team is helping to start a CTE (career and technical education) club at the high school.

“This is the only one of those that has any hands-on applications for engineering,” Willeby 

Said. He added that he hopes to pursue a career in the medical or engineering field after college.

The club is also focused on restarting a Lego robotics club at Ashland Middle School, which could provide students even more practice before they get to the high school level of robotics.

Bussenkell praised the club atmosphere as welcoming for all students.

“It provides, I think, a safe place — especially for the underrepresented groups that might feel a little bit more intimidated with the wood shop or the metal shop,” Bussenkell said. “It’s a lot more welcoming. We’re always excited to have someone new join, even for just a meeting, and I think that it just brings a sense of community.” 

Reach reporter Holly Dillemuth at

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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