What is the most important thing in the world to the Isabella community? Many would list such things as family, faith, careers or education.

But if actions speak louder than words, it would be tough to argue against Isabella—like many other small communities around the country—revolving around football. Each Friday night in the fall brings the biggest event the community will see all year.

Isabella teacher Jay LeCroy thinks football is fine, but he wishes more students understood their best opportunities can be found outside of athletics.

“Isabella has never had anyone earn a dime playing professional athletics,” LeCroy said. “There are so many jobs out there that they can’t fill them.”

LeCroy, a science teacher, started a robotics program at Isabella, meant to introduce students to engineering and maybe even leading some to choose that as a career path.

“My goal is to create students who can be our future workers,” he said. “I want them to be able to go into the private sector and have a good earning.”

LeCroy started a robotics program at Isabella in Aug. 2009 to join BEST Robotics, a nationwide non-profit organization designed to get students excited about engineering, science and technology.

The team traveled to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where it competed against the likes of Hoover, the Alabama School of Fine Arts and Shades Valley Tech—and performed well given its lack of roots in the activity.

Most recently, what has become the Central Alabama Robotics Team—because of its partnership with the LeCroy Career/Technical Center and the inclusion of students from Thorsby and Clanton schools—finished sixth in the 2011 Blazer BEST competition. The top four teams advanced to a national competition. Though LeCroy’s team wasn’t included in that number, the group’s accomplishment is remarkable considering the relatively short amount of time the program has been in existence.

Using only the materials in the provided kits, student teams had six weeks to design, develop and test a robot that can outperform that of their competitors.

For his teams, LeCroy appoints a CEO (this year it is IHS senior Kennan Lewis), who in turn “hires” classmates to perform various responsibilities—such as design, marketing and presentation. LeCroy’s “activity period” at Isabella is devoted to robotics all the way to October.

Lewis, who hopes to attend UAB or Auburn University and study materials engineering, has been involved with the program since its inception.

“It was a lot more competitive than I thought it would be,” he said of his first competition experience. “Our robot compared to theirs—it was very simple. We know our strengths and weaknesses now, and we can work around it.”

The teacher has pushed to advance the team even further, sharing plans for a countywide program with city councils and other local leaders.

“My goal would be that the county would create a curriculum that supports this engineering team and stands behind what we’re doing,” LeCroy said.