Ridgeland robotics coach named to hall of fame
In roughly five years, Bill Richardson has started a robotic program from scratch and made the Ridgeland High School team one of the premier names in the state and a fixture at the VEX World Championships every Spring.
For his efforts he has been recognized as a member of the REC Foundation's STEM Hall of Fame Inspiration All-Stars, a group of people Richardson calls "big-time players" in the world VEX Robotics competitions.
"It was a total shock," Richardson said. "There are only a few teachers in it and a lot of the people in it are big-time scientists and engineers and heads of corporations."
There are 84 members in the Hall of Fame since 2008. The last class included Sylvia Acevedo, a rocket scientist, engineer and award-winning STEM entrepreneur who is now Girl Scouts of America CEO.
Though the world's competition set for late April has been canceled for safety reasons, Ridgeland was set to send team 7536R who won the design award at state.
Richardson received his induction and plaque at the State Competition in February. He is in.
This year's crop of four inductees will be recognized at next year's World competition in Dallas.
Richardson was nominated by a campaign led by students, parents and the RHS community.
Sneha Patel, an RHS Junior, has been in Richardson's robotics classes since her time at Olde Towne Middle School.
She was drawn to the program because of her interest in math and how things worked. She started in the TSA program, a less competitive track within the VEX system and soon graduated to the school's VEX team which works to solve more complicated problems, harder competitions and works with a variety of materials including metals.
Richardson started the program in 2008 at Olde Towne using a three feet by six feet area in the back of another classroom. They now have whole classrooms dedicated to the program.
"I was so proud when I heard. I really think he deserves it," Patel said. "It is about time he gets some recognition for all the work he puts in and all he has done for the program. He doesn't get paid for all the hours he has spent on the weekends and after school."
Richardson also coaches e-sports and drone racing at the school, among many other roles.
His robotics teams have had five consecutive placements at state competitions and five consecutive world championship appearances. They boast roughly 140 trophies.