Team RoboH2O considered staying home after losing the man who helped build its blossoming robotics program from the ground up. However, family members of the recently deceased robotics coach said Jerry Barsby would have wanted his students to compete in the world championship that the team had worked so hard to reach.
The Eldon Upper Elementary Robotics team, RoboH2O, will compete in the FIRST LEGO world championship April 18-21 in Houston in honor of the late sixth-grade teacher, coach and mentor who dreamed of his Eldon Gearheads robotics program reaching international-level competition so the children could meet and share ideas with fellow students from around the world.
Barsby, 35, was critically injured last week when a floor jack broke while he was working beneath a motor vehicle. He was taken off life support Saturday and died shortly thereafter.
The Eldon School District has scheduled a community funeral service for 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Upper Elementary School Gymnasium. Barsby had worked in the district for about 12 years, and LEAP Program Director Colleen Abbott said many former students from across the district will likely attend to honor the teacher. Photo collages are being made in Barsby's honor for the ceremony.
Corey Matthias, Barsby's fellow coach and friend, will lead the RoboH2O team of eight students in Houston.
Abbott said the team will wear T-shirts honoring Barsby and be reminded of him in various ways throughout the competition. "We are planning to support the kids now and continue to do what we can to help them to heal, and help them to grieve, and stay focused on what Mr. Barsby's mission was to begin with as much as we can," she said.
The loss has been very hard on the students and staff members, and Abbott said they have benefited from the district's two new mental health professionals, who were caring for students along with school counselors. Throughout the grieving, the school district will rely on its motto, "Together we rise."
"Overall, there is a lot of shock," Abbott said. "It's been really difficult for young people, and all of us, to deal with the grief of losing someone who was just an incredible pillar for (the robotics program). He was the main driving force from the beginning, and it was his desire to learn and teach himself in order to teach the kids. He really made it to where (RoboH2O) is able to go to Houston."
The upper elementary will also host a send-off ceremony for RoboH20 on Monday before the team departs for Houston, as Barsby would have wished.
"His parents and wife said Jerry would want the kids to go on the trip, and he would want them to live it to the fullest and do their very best, because that is what he wanted. This was a big goal," Abbott said. "I think his father said about 10 times over the last few days while we were in the hospital, 'He was so looking forward to that trip to worlds, because he wanted the kids to be engaged with people from around the world.'"