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Everyday Heroes: Greg and Kathy Godsell

Crystal Lake couple coaches, mentors students interested in robotics

Kathy and Greg Godsell are the founders of Crystal Lake Robotics, the first robotics team in McHenry County. They graciously host the team meetings at their home and have converted their basement into a robotic playing field.
Kathy and Greg Godsell are the founders of Crystal Lake Robotics, the first robotics team in McHenry County. They graciously host the team meetings at their home and have converted their basement into a robotic playing field.

To say the Godsell house is chaotic on Sundays is an understatement.

On a typical Sunday, 22 middle-school and high-school aged children, along with some parents, flow in and out of the Godsells’ Crystal Lake home to practice for McHenry County’s first robotics team.

“It’s intense,” Greg Godsell said with a laugh. “It gets pretty loud.”

Greg and wife, Kathy, are coaches and mentors for three robotics teams. The Godsells have converted their basement into a robotics playing field – part computer lab, part practice area and part workshop between the three teams they coach. There is a healthy mix of boys and girls in fourth through 12th grade.

The teams design and build autonomous robots, and compete against others across the state in what Greg and Kathy described as having the same edge-of-your-seat intensity as other sports.

“It’s a sport for the mind,” Greg Godsell said.

The Godsells say they are the only FIRST Tech Challenge team in McHenry County, and they’d love to expand the program – that also includes FIRST Lego League – and get other schools involved.

FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is nonprofit public charity that designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills, according to its website.

“There are kids where sports doesn’t cut it,” Greg Godsell said. “It’s not their thing. A lot of kids want to do this. How do we take it to the next level?”

Another portion of the robotics challenge is to study and put into practice soft skills and values, such as teamwork, or communicating between themselves or with adults.

“It’s not just building a robot, it’s understanding and being able to express yourself.” Kathy Godsell said.

Both engineers themselves, Kathy and Greg started the group for their children. All three are on teams, including Audrey, who is on the all-girl team Fruit Salad.

When they launched Fruit Salad four years ago, all six girls wanted to be writers.

“That shows our education system is slanted in one direction for girls,” Greg said. “The goal is not to make them all into engineers, but to show them something else is out there.”

Greg and Kathy were nominated by neighbor and County Board member Carolyn Schofield.

“The NW Herald has graciously featured many successes of these robotics teams. However, none of the successes would be possible without the perseverance, dedication and commitment of the Godsell family,” Schofield wrote in her nomination.

Kathy and Greg, however, would rather avoid the lime light.

“This seemed like unnecessary attention on us, to be honest,” Greg said of being nominated as an Everyday Hero. “It’s all about the kids.”

When asked who they considered their hero, Greg had an answer that quite possibly earned him an few extra brownie points.

“She’s my hero,” he said, looking at Kathy. “Not only does she do this, but she’s a Girl Scout leader, she helps with Boy Scouts. I’m not sure how she manages it all, to be honest.”

Kathy smiled sheepishly.

“I can’t top that.”

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