What To Know About The Hemp Bill, Milwaukee Students Heading To Robotics World Championships, How America Has Criminalized Mental Illness

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A former Marketplace reporter has written a new book about mental illness in the United States– from lack of adequate funding to the issue to treating mentally ill like criminals in many cases. We talk to the author about their research. We also hear from the coach of a Milwaukee high school robotics team that will be moving on to the World Championships after winning regionals and discuss the approved bill to grow hemp in Wisconsin.

Featured in this Show

  • What You Need To Know About The State's New Industrial Hemp Program

    Wisconsin legalized the growing and processing of industrial hemp last year, and now the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is rolling out its pilot program. We talk to a state Senator who sponsored the legislation about what you need to know.

  • Milwaukee High School Robotics Team Heads To World Championships

    Riverside University High School in Milwaukee was the underdog going into a regional robotics competition earlier this month in La Crosse.

    They won.

    Now, the team — the Riverside RoboTigers — is headed to the World Championships April 25 in Detroit, Michigan.

    “They’re extremely excited,” said Chris Levas, an administrator at the high school and head coach of the robotics team. “We have about 30 kids on the team and all of them are ready to go compete on a world championship level.”

    Their task, Levas said, is essentially a giant chess game. But instead of a human playing the game, it’s their robot, dubbed “Valentina” by the team members.

    With a square base and a tall, elevator-like center, it travels quickly. The students maneuver the robot to perform multiple tasks, like picking up egg crate-sized yellow cubes and dropping them onto switches and scales.

    That elevator device equips it to pick the cubes up and drop them onto the highest targets for maximum points.

    The robot weighs about 140 pounds, Levas said. The students had about six weeks to create it.

    At competition time, Eillym Fernandez controls the robot, maneuvering it through the tasks. She’s a Riverside University High School student and team driver.

    “I’m mostly thinking about how the robot’s gonna work, how I’m going to be adjusting to it, and all the problems we’re going to face in the competition, and how I can work with it with my team,” she said. “I feel really nervous at the beginning because I really don’t know how it’s gonna work.”

    The good news? The team knows exactly what the tasks will be going into each competition. The tasks at the world championship will be the same as the ones they went up against at regionals.

    “We have our strategy of how we want to play that game, we have a robot to manipulate the pieces the way we want it to be manipulated,” Levas said. “And we’re gonna go in there and hopefully knock some heads.”

    The Riverside RoboTigers program was formed 10 years ago. It’s funded almost entirely by sponsors, who make it possible to buy the necessary equipment.

    While Levas is head coach, the other coaches are working engineers who come in from outside the Milwaukee Public School System.

    “I think the relationship they build with the engineers … kind of pushes students to broaden their horizons and look into STEM fields,” Levas said.

    Many of the current team members have internships at Rockwell Automation. Six of the program’s last seven graduates went on to four-year universities to study mechanical or electrical engineering.

    As Fernandez sees it, the program is more than just a robotics club.

    “This is also about learning all the strategies, learning about math, science,” she said. “And also what you can create using your imagination and working with others.”

    After high school, she plans to go on to a university to study medicine or biomedical engineering.

  • Milwaukee High School Robotics Team Going To World Championships

    Milwaukee’s Riverside University High School RoboTigers are headed to the Robotics World Championships in Detroit, Michigan. We talk to the team’s head coach and one of the team’s student drivers about how they’re feeling with a week to go before the competition.

  • How U.S. Prisons Treat Inmates With Mental Illnesses

    According to our guest, half of all incarcerated people nationwide have at least one mental disorder – and they’re often denied proper treatment and punished in ways that make them sicker. We discuss how the situation got to where it is and consider possible solutions.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Rachael Vasquez Producer
  • Bill Martens Producer
  • State Senator Patrick Testin Guest
  • Chris Levas Guest
  • Eillym Fernandez Guest
  • Alisa Roth Guest

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