Throw Back Thursday: The STEM Life [part 1]

It’s March, and I’ve got Pi on my mind! From Pi Day (3/14) to the infinitesimal 3.14159156+, or Mom’s super delicious apple pie, I’m led back to my father Al Bishop, and his founding of the High School’s Apple Pi Robotics Team in 2006. March is when the annual competition schedule starts, closely coinciding with Pi Day. I’m ready to support the team in a new way, in memory of Dad, and invite you to help our youth and STEM education too! 

Let’s cut to the core. I was fascinated at 10 when Gemini IV astronaut Edward White made the first U.S. spacewalk. Fast forward 50 years.  With inspiration from his grandson Seth’s robotics competitions in New Hampshire, 4th generation Al Bishop was the catalyst to form  the first ever robotics program in Guilford. The team competes annually in the International FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Program Competitions with the help of key local sponsors like Page Hardware and Bishop’s Orchards among others.

As program founder Dean Kamen said “FIRST is more than robots. The robots are a vehicle for students to learn life skills. Kids often come in not knowing what to expect – of the program nor of themselves.”  The end result is new passion in our youth– for a multitude of aspects they are immersed into by the team’s activities.   Apple Pi has become known for its dedication to youth education, cruise nights, and community service. This cycle is boundless. Community service has included Rabies Clinics, Chick Days, robot demos for adults and children, putting on elementary school workshops, building planters for Guilford Senior Housing and fundraising for Parkinson’s disease medical research. This all supports the primary focus of heightening local awareness for the wonder and potential of STEM. 

Agriculture and robots are typically not associated with one another. However, as a 4-H team, Apple Pi has partnered with the agricultural community to spread STEM to new groups of people and maximize the team’s impact.  As I like to put it: “There is an incredible wealth of science and math behind everything we do in agriculture, yet many farmers do it without fully recognizing it as STEM in applied forms they do everyday.”  The innovations in agriculture have been amazing in the last several decades, using digital technology, GPS mapping and guidance, nutrient analysis, drip irrigation, vertical farming, biodegradable products, CRISPR/Cas Genome research, precision plant breeding, solar energy, precision hydraulics, drones and highly refined harvest equipment. These all are important as the US is a leader in improved yields, requiring less labor on fewer acres. Analyzing the pros and cons through STEM research is a critical component as we balance human needs and our natural resources.

From my view on the ‘tractor seat’, immersed in a growing agricultural operation for 45 years and serving 22 of those on our local Board of Education, the success in the Apple Pi Robotics Team lies in its graduates and the inspiring moments that assisted them in further education, scholarship awards and careers related to STEM and service to others. From the Rookie team earning a 2007 National Competition berth in Atlanta, Georgia their first year, to the prestigious  “Chairman’s Award” in 2014 (and multiple berths at the National Competitions) the team has demonstrated teamwork, spirit and dedication. The eight sub-teams work under the captains and mentors to bring it all together.

Leaning on my father’s and my farming roots, I’ve gleaned (thank you) from numerous sources to compile this tribute to the team members, captains and mentors to help you join my family in helping to fund the program that inspires and grows STEM experiences in our community. Watch for my next blog on the Ides of March, when my Dad would have turned 90, and a day after “Pi Day” March 14th, when I share further insights on his career and dedication to family and the community. 


Pi for now,

Keith B. Bishop

5th Generation

Updated 3/10/21