COSAM News Articles 2023 October Catherine Kenny wins SCORE’s Terry Marbut Excellence in Robotics Teaching Award

Catherine Kenny wins SCORE’s Terry Marbut Excellence in Robotics Teaching Award

Published: 10/31/2023

By: Maria Gebhardt

“Robotics can make a huge difference in the life of a student,” said Jennifer Spencer, assistant director of the Southeastern Center of Robotics Education, or SCORE. “This year’s recipient of the Terry Marbut Excellence in Robotics Teaching Award is an example of what an incredible difference a teacher made with her excitement and dedication for her robotics team.”

One of her students who participated in her robotics team moved to another state with his family.

“His new robotics team lacked the same passion and drive that he had with his previous teacher and coach, Catherine Kenny,” said Spencer.

What happened next shows the pivotal role that robotics plays in the lives of our students.

“Due to his passion and deep respect for his coach and team, he convinced his family to move back to his school for his senior year to participate with his original team,” explained Spencer.

Kenny not only began a robotics program at her school and took the time to write grants, find local business support and worked with parents to help the program, but she created a real community for the students.

“As her program and interest in her district has grown, she has organized summer camps, tournaments and training sessions,” added Spencer. “She has also given her high school students a purpose in sharing what they know about robotics with younger students.”

Kenny has taught for 26 years in Montgomery Public Schools and Pike Road Schools. She is currently the STEM Teacher at Pike Road Junior High School. 

“She began coaching competitive robotics in 2017 with her first VEX IQ team and grew the program to include VRC Middle and High School teams,” said Spencer.

For more than 13 years, she was a general education teacher for MPS and then a gifted education teacher. She graduated from Troy University at Dothan with a master’s degree in gifted and talented education. She earned her bachelor's degree in early childhood/elementary education from Auburn University at Montgomery.

“Catherine believes robotics is a great way to engage diverse groups of learners in science, technology, engineering, and math that have been proven to help pave the way to college and a variety of careers,” Spencer added.

“Because of the many aspects involved with robotics, robotics has the potential to engage all learners in complex yet fun ways, encouraging them to use critical thinking skills to solve specific tasks,” Kenny said.    

Her perspective with the value of robotics education and her connection with her students is exactly what Terry Marbut demonstrated for decades.

“Marbut was one of the first in Alabama to adopt the VEX robotics platform and launched it through Jacksonville State University where he worked for 30 years as an instructor and the department head of Applied Engineering,” Spencer said. “He worked very closely with SCORE helping with teacher trainings and much more.”

He was a catalyst in getting SCORE started with its VEX robotics program, which has trained thousands of students and teachers with hands-on experience in robotics.

“Terry lost his hard-fought battle with cancer on Oct. 13, 2020,” Spencer said. “Though we miss him dearly, his presence is still here in our growing robotics community.”

Before his death, he worked diligently as a teacher training coordinator and regional support manager for the REC Foundation.

“Terry believed in introducing robotics to as many people as possible and growing the robotics community,” she added. “That is why every year we honor him for all he did and the impact he still has on robotics education.”



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