Herzberg Puts Heart Into Robotics

In April West Des Moines Community Schools’ FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team, Beta, won the Inspire Award leading to the team bringing home the FTC FIRST World Championship.  The team is made up of seven Valley High School juniors.  Stilwell Junior High School teacher Dale Herzberg served as the Beta team’s mechanical mentor.

Herzberg has been working with the team for the past few years, but became more involved during the last two years. The team meets and built their robot all in Herzberg’s classroom at Stilwell, even though it meant them traveling from Valley. “I’ve been building things since I was a little kid, I have always been interested in things mechanical,” said Herzberg, who has been teaching in the district for 38 years, 30 of those years at Stilwell as a Tech Ed teacher. While Herzberg mentors the team, he makes note he does not build anything. “My role is to take ideas, discuss materials needed to make it happen, and a way it can be done. I don’t build anything, I just facilitate them,” he said. And he does just that. “Mr. Herzberg provides the knowledge, experience, and tools to make our design ideas a reality,” Beta team member Saketh Undurty said.

Herzberg traveled with the team to all regional competitions and the world competition. Herzberg added that while he is a mentor, and does do some coaching of the team, he purely enjoys staying as their mentor. “I like teaching students about how to use tools and equipment, and the problem solving process of it all,” he said.

It’s clear that the Beta team enjoys and appreciates their mentor. “Mr. Herzberg dedicates himself to his students to an incredible degree. He inspires us to be more than engineers and scientists; he makes us better people,” Beta team member Chase Schweitzer said. “With Mr. Herzberg, our boundaries are limitless. He opens the door to countless opportunities for growth and learning. It is clear that he cares not only about what he does, but also about the students whom he works,” Beta team member Annie Howard added.

Herzberg’s favorite part about working with the team is the students themselves. He said that although each team member has different areas of interest, they can all work together as a team. “These kids are mature beyond their years,” he said. “I hardly ever have to get them motivated to work. They are self motivated and know what needs to be done,” he added.

“I hope each of them follows their dream of what they want to do. They are going to go their separate ways in college, and will be all over the world eventually. I want them to take with them that feeling of working together, accomplishing a goal, and helping other people,” Herzberg said of the team. “I believe that is what is most important,” he added. He enjoys that the team is getting real-life experience that will help them in their future careers. The team has learned how to work under a deadline, act professionally during a competition and with other teams, work together as a team, and delegate tasks.

“this team doesn’t live off their reputation,” he said. After the team won at the state level and received their banner, they humbly chose not to take it and have it displayed at worlds. “The maturity level on this team is fascinating,” Herzberg said.

Herzberg said the tournaments the team competed in are not just about winning the competition. “The FIRST program wants them to act as gracious professionals,” he said. “It is not just about building a robot that can win the task, it is about helping others.” Herzberg believes that is what the team excels in, helping other teams. “They put together skills days and build days to help other teams get better,” he said. The team has also helped other students in the district start a FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team.

Herzberg plans on continuing to help the team next year. “I am dedicated to the Beta team next year,” he said. In the upcoming years he is planning on helping to mentor other teams in the district. “Honestly, I don’t know what will happen,” he said talking about the future. “But I will be here.”


The robot the Beta team built this year.  In April the team won the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championship.

The robot built by the Beta team. In April the team won the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Championship.