Are Indiana Schools Committed to Offering STEM Opportunities to Students?

Did you know that Indiana employers estimate that there are 2.5 jobs available for every 1 STEM-skilled job seeker? By next year, there will be 1.2 million unfilled jobs nationally in the STEM workforce. Rapidly growing fields like Software Development, Computers Systems Analytics, & Engineering are creating far more jobs than there are job-seekers with the skill-set to fill them.

Here at TechPoint Foundation for Youth, our focus is to ensure Indiana's K-12 students have access to learning opportunities that will inspire the pursuit of STEM careers. Our programs remove the barriers which result in students’ loss of interest in STEM and lack of understanding of existing career opportunities.

The Robot Pirates of Parkwood Elementary School gather around the field before a match.

The Robot Pirates of Parkwood Elementary School gather around the field before a match.

One of our fastest growing programs, the State Robotics Initiative (SRI) provides elementary schools the resources needed to launch a robotics program, including a VEX IQ Robotics Kit, teacher training, and ongoing support for sustainability. Robotics teaches young students valuable STEM skills and develops crucial 21st Century workforce qualities such as collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication.  Additionally, robotics offers opportunities to students who aren’t necessarily interested in more conventional, and readily available, extracurricular activities like athletics or the arts.

The first year of the SRI was highly successful! The number of Indiana VEX IQ elementary teams grew from 70 to over 500 teams, reaching more than 5,000 Indiana students who had not previously been exposed to robotics! It was a fantastic first year, but our work is not done. There are still more than 800 elementary schools across the state who have not taken advantage of this unique opportunity. We want to be certain that the leadership within Indiana schools understands that robotics is just as valuable (and just as fun!) as offering athletics or fine arts. If every school district offers athletics and fine arts why not also offer competitive STEM opportunities for their students?  

In May, we challenged Indiana superintendents to take the “Robotics Pledge”, making robotics education accessible to EVERY elementary school in their district with the help of our SRI grant. We recently spoke with the superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools, Dr. Andrew T. Melin, who is championing robotics in his district by ensuring that all twelve of the corporation’s elementary schools are providing robotics programs. Here is what Dr. Melin had to say when asked why he thinks it is important that 100% of his elementary schools offer robotics programs:

Teams from all elementary schools in Greater Clark County gathered for a scrimmage in February 2017.

Teams from all elementary schools in Greater Clark County gathered for a scrimmage in February 2017.

“Our elementary students gained invaluable skill development in terms of critical-thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork at the VEX IQ robotics competitions. The great value of VEX Robotics is that students are involved in STEM learning without realizing it because it is fun and engaging. It gives students who are primarily academically focused a chance to participate in a team environment. It was so exciting and meaningful, that we thought all of our elementary schools would benefit from participating.”

When asked about Greater Clark’s goals going forward, Dr. Melin stated, “We want students to use our academic skills’ focus on reading, writing, and math along with our PRIDE career skills of Persistence, Respectfulness, Initiative, Dependability, and Efficiency to apply their learning, to work collaboratively, and to enjoy the experience.”

Blue Dots = Schools with VEX IQ teams Robots = Districts with a robotics team in every Elementary School

Blue Dots = Schools with VEX IQ teams

Robots = Districts with a robotics team in every Elementary School

Greater Clark County isn’t the only district in the state to commit to making robotics accessible to all elementary students. MSD Decatur Township, Lake Ridge New Tech Schools, Frankton-Lapel Community Schools, and East Noble School Corporation have also received grants for 100% of the elementary schools in each of their districts.

If your school or a school in your area is still feeling hesitant about applying for the State Robot Grant, check out what other Indiana teachers and administrators are saying after their first year.

Is your school corporation committed to offering students this unique STEM learning opportunity? Take the Robotics Pledge today and help us grow Indiana’s future!

Learn more at www.techpointyouth.org/robots/

To see if your school is eligible to apply for a robotics grant, visit our Robot Map.

CoderDojo Indiana Hackathon!

Do you have what it takes to be a developer? We're giving central Indiana kids a chance to find out!

CoderDojo Indiana (CDI), an initiative of TechPoint Foundation for Youth, is excited to host its inaugural hackathon, which, if you aren't familiar with the term, is an event where a group of people come together to engage in collaborative computer programming!

In this case, we're talking about a group of kids joining us at DeveloperTown (just south of Broad Ripple) on Saturday, July 22, 2017, to participate in all kinds of fun activities! Students will have a chance to test their skills (and learn some new ones!) by completing coding challenges in two programming languages: Python and Scratch. While the event targets student participants (ie: ninjas!) from CoderDojo clubs throughout Indiana, anyone is welcome to attend - no experience required!

The day will begin with opening ceremonies at 10am followed by a 5 hour challenge period. During the challenge period, students will be able to earn points by completing different coding challenges - the more difficult the challenge, the more points they can earn! During lunch, students will also have a chance to interact with some exciting hands-on exhibitors. The day will conclude with awards and prizes.

While it's FREE to participate, you must register at cdihackathon.eventbrite.com by Wednesday, July 19th in order to reserve your spot!

At the start of last summer, 15 CoderDojo clubs existed in Indiana, mostly located around Indianapolis and supported by the city’s thriving technology sector. Thanks to a partnership between Eleven Fifty Academy and TechPoint Foundation for Youth, that narrative is changing. There are now more than 30 CoderDojo clubs in communities throughout Indiana, with sites in 3 additional communities expected to launch by September 2017. The movement’s footprint has grown from just shy of 100 students to 450+, and we're excited to continue that growth in the years to come, giving all students access to high impact computer science programs!

We hope to see you at the CoderDojo Indiana Hackathon on July 22nd!

$30,000+ Raised to Support EnablINg STEM Teacher Grants at 2017 Mira Awards Gala

A student from Grassy Creek Elementary School shows off a LEGO design from her classroom project.

A student from Grassy Creek Elementary School shows off a LEGO design from her classroom project.

INDIANAPOLIS (June 14, 2017) — TechPoint Foundation for Youth is thrilled to announce that it has exceeded its $30,000 fundraising goal to support the EnablINg STEM Teacher Grant program. Thanks to a $10,000 matching donation from Angie’s List Foundation and the generosity of the attendees at this year’s TechPoint Mira Awards Gala, the funds will support 60 classroom projects designed to enhance science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum.

This competitive grant, which is open to all Indiana kindergarten through 8th grade classroom teachers in schools with a free and reduced price lunch percentage of 55% or greater, provides grant dollars to teachers to support the purchase of supplies and equipment that reinforce STEM curriculum in the classroom. Applications are evaluated based on their ability to implement hands-on, project-based STEM programming, while also focusing on the use of resources that could extend beyond the school year, and have an emphasis on student STEM engagement.

Students from East Side Elementary School in Edinburgh perform a hands-on science experiment in their classroom.

Students from East Side Elementary School in Edinburgh perform a hands-on science experiment in their classroom.

“We know that our state’s great teachers far too often pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets,” said Laura Dodds, TechPoint Foundation for Youth Executive Director. “By supplementing school supply budgets, this grant makes it possible for students to explore exciting STEM curriculum in a hands-on way and allows teachers to be creative, while also helping to reduce the amount of money teachers are spending.”

Students from Spring Mill Elementary School play with their HexBug kits.

Students from Spring Mill Elementary School play with their HexBug kits.

Since 2013, grants have been awarded to 65 teachers throughout Indiana, with projects impacting over 15,000 low-income students. However, as the grant has grown in popularity, it has been harder to keep up with demand, as qualified teacher applications have outnumbered the funding available to support the projects.

This latest fundraising campaign has resulted in the largest grant fund available to teachers since the grant opened thanks to the support of our partners at Angie’s List Foundation, TechPoint, and a generous anonymous donation that followed the 2017 Mira Awards Gala in April.

Students from West Newton Elementary School on the south side of Indianapolis show of their classroom projects.

Students from West Newton Elementary School on the south side of Indianapolis show of their classroom projects.

While the grant is currently closed, applications are accepted for spring and fall grant cycles, with the next cycle opening on August 7th to support Fall 2017 projects.

To learn more about the EnablINg STEM Teacher Grant and to apply when the next cycle opens, please visit the EnablINg STEM Grants page or follow us on social media.

TPF4Y and Indiana DWD jointly inducted into the STEM Hall of Fame as 2017 Partner of the Year

TPF4Y Executive Director Laura Dodds and DWD Commissioner Steve Braun

TPF4Y Executive Director Laura Dodds and DWD Commissioner Steve Braun

INDIANAPOLIS (June 13, 2017) - The Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation recently inducted TechPoint Foundation for Youth (TPY) and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) into the STEM Hall of Fame as the 2017 Partner of the Year. The honor was given at the VEX Robotics World Championship, held at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

The REC Foundation defines STEM Hall of Fame Partner of the Year recipients as “well-recognized and respected organizations with vision, products, and services aligned with the fields of science, engineering, and technology, and with personnel that represent a valued spectrum of knowledge and talent across STEM.” TPY and DWD join the ranks of previous inductees including NASA, Texas Instruments, Project Lead The Way, Autodesk and others.

An Indiana student at a VEX IQ Challenge competition.

An Indiana student at a VEX IQ Challenge competition.

“The explosive growth of VEX Robotics teams in Indiana over the last year is a direct reflection of the progressive vision of STEM leaders in the state, and specifically, the combined efforts of Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development and the staff at TechPoint Foundation for Youth,” said Jason Morrella, President of the REC Foundation. 

In Spring 2016, in partnership with the REC Foundation, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and TechPoint Foundation for Youth expanded the successful City of Indianapolis VEX Robotics Competition model started by Former Mayor Greg Ballard statewide, with a focus on providing equal access to high impact STEM learning opportunities for all Indiana students.

“Indiana is always looking forward for ways to bridge the gap of workforce supply and industry demand. We know that robotics engages diverse student populations in comprehensive STEM subject matter that has been proven to spur interest in STEM college and career pathways,” said DWD Commissioner Steve Braun. “This program is going to make a real difference for Indiana students and employers, and we are honored to be recognized for this work alongside our partners at TechPoint Foundation for Youth.”  

State Director of Robotics George Giltner, TPF4Y Executive Director Laura Dodds, and former DWD Associate COO, Dennis Wimer

State Director of Robotics George Giltner, TPF4Y Executive Director Laura Dodds, and former DWD Associate COO, Dennis Wimer

One year after expansion, the State Robotics Initiative has impacted thousands of students, with the number of competing elementary school teams skyrocketing from just over 70 to more than 500 teams in Indiana. At the recent VEX Robotics World Championship, 29 of Indiana’s elementary VEX IQ Challenge teams - more than any other state - were invited to compete with peers from over 30 countries around the world. Recent feedback and evaluations from Indiana teachers and participants has reinforced the impact the initiative is having on students.

“Our partnership with DWD kicked off the State Robotics Initiative and we are thrilled that we have been able to introduce this innovative platform to so many Indiana students,” said Executive Director Laura Dodds. “We’ve had teachers share that this experience has encouraged their most reserved female students to find a voice, another sharing that their students are already beginning to look at colleges with robotics programs. It’s been rewarding to be a part of such an impactful partnership and we are beyond thrilled to be recognized now as a member of the STEM Hall of Fame alongside so many other great organizations.”  

TechPoint Foundation for Youth recently kicked off the second year of the State Robotics Initiative with 400 more robotics grants available for Indiana elementary schools and out-of-school providers who don’t already have a VEX IQ Challenge team. To learn more about the robotics grant, how to apply, how you or your company can get involved, or to support a team in your area, visit www.techpointyouth.org/robots or email George@techpointyouth.org.
 

About REC Foundation: The REC Foundation seeks to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on, sustainable and affordable curriculum-based robotics engineering programs across the U.S. and internationally. The REC Foundation develops partnerships with K-12 education, higher education, government, industry, and the non-profit community to achieve this work. More information at: www.RoboticsEducation.org or www.RobotEvents.com.

About Indiana Department of Workforce Development: The Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) serves the worker and the employer to ensure workplace success. DWD is committed to innovating and invigorating Indiana’s economic future by providing WorkOne Career Centers, Unemployment Insurance, Labor Market Information, Regional Workforce Strategies and Professional Training. Through these services, DWD is able to develop a premier workforce that enables Indiana employers to flourish and entices businesses from outside our state to relocate to Indiana.

About TechPoint Foundation for Youth: TechPoint Foundation for Youth is committed to inspiring our state's underserved K-12 students to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We believe that our youth should be equipped to address Indiana's growing demand for a skilled workforce. www.techpointyouth.org

2017 All Girls FLL Challenge!

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The 2nd annual All Girls FLL Challenge took place on Saturday, May 20th on IUPUI's campus and hosted almost 60 girls. Representing Avon, Bedford, Fort Wayne, Hobart, Indianapolis, Martinsville, West Lafayette, and Zionsville, 12 teams participated in this day-long, off-season event that focuses on boosting the confidence of females participating on robotics teams. The event was planned and hosted by an all-female steering committee comprised of staff from the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, IndianaFIRST, the School of Informatics & Computing, and TechPoint Foundation for Youth.

Judges Ashley Looper & Katie Richmond pose with Ruby Roo.

Judges Ashley Looper & Katie Richmond pose with Ruby Roo.

Similarly to last year, the opening ceremonies were followed by three, 1-hour long sessions that allowed the girls to experience the virtual reality and media labs during a building tour with IUPUI students, practice with their robots to prepare for the afternoon's competition, and work together on this year's Sisterhood Activity.

The Sisterhood Award is based on the successful completion of the activity, which changes every year to reflect the FIRST LEGO League challenge. Since this year's challenge was Animal Allies, the steering committee wanted an activity that tied engineering and design concepts to animal welfare so we invited some guest judges to help us pull it off! 

A team of girls works together to design their prosthetic concept for Ruby Roo.

A team of girls works together to design their prosthetic concept for Ruby Roo.

Ruby Roo, a chihuahua born without her front legs, was the star of this year's Sisterhood Activity. The girls were charged with designing a prosthetic concept for Ruby that was not too heavy or too light or too cumbersome - all problems she's faced with past prosthetics. Her owner, former veterinary technician Ashley Looper, talked to the girls about various animal prosthetics while Katie Richmond, a certified prosthetist/orthotist at Prosthetic Solutions of Indiana, told them more about prosthetics for humans. After learning from our judges, the girls got to meet Ruby and then use craft supplies to create their own prosthetic designs. There were lots of exciting ideas!

After lunch, the teams presented their prosthetic ideas to Katie, Ashley, and Ruby in hopes of winning the Sisterhood Award, and participated in the Animal Allies robot competition in the auditorium. 

At the end of the day, six total awards were presented to the most deserving teams for the following accomplishments:

Sisterhood Award: Hobart Brickies from Hobart
For the Sisterhood Award, judges base their decision on the teamwork and core values exhibited during the sisterhood activity time, as well as the team's presentation of their finished invention. They look for a team that invented a clever product, but did so while displaying enthusiasm and support for the ideas of their fellow teammates.

Champion: Robo Saviors from Martinsville
The Champion Award is presented to the team with the highest score during the robot competition.

Runner Up: Gamer Girls - Narwahls from Zionsville
The Runner Up Award is presented to the team with the second highest score during the robot competition.

Robot Design Award: AME2 from Indianapolis
For the Robot Design Award, judges look for a team whose design work stands out. They evaluate mechanical design, innovation, programming effectiveness, and team strategies for solving missions to assess overall design quality. Judges also take into account how well the robot performs on the competition field

Creativity Award: Gamer Girls - Turtles from Avon
For the Creativity Award, judges look for a team whose effort and performance is unique from every other team. They base their decision on conversations and observations made throughout the day while they look for a team that displays creativity in every aspect of their work, from the design of their robot, to the presentation of their team, to the way they work together.

A girl-powered team of volunteers was instrumental in making the event a success!

A girl-powered team of volunteers was instrumental in making the event a success!

Phoenix Award: The Thing That Moves from West Lafayette
The Phoenix Award is given to a team that displays a can-do attitude throughout the event, even when presented with disappointing challenges or problems. The judges look for a team that does not give up easily and is determined to persevere despite difficulties.

Congratulations to all our teams for a fabulous day of STEM learning & thanks to our volunteers for making this event possible!

A Driving Force: Grassy Creek Elementary's Girl Power Duo

The Grassy Creek Elementary School teams pose for a group photo at one of the seven events they competed in this season.

The Grassy Creek Elementary School teams pose for a group photo at one of the seven events they competed in this season.

The kids on the VEX IQ teams at Grassy Creek Elementary School may be young, but they already have a good idea of what they want to be when they grow up. Answers range from scientist to dentist to the most popular answer, engineer, because, as one student said, "engineering is really fun."

With 19 kids split among three teams, the school has been to seven competitions this season and will be on their way to VEX IQ Worlds in Louisville next week, lead by their dedicated and energetic coaches, Dustin Ecker, Ryan Gammons, Andy Knies, and Capri Corwin. In speaking with the Grassy Creek coaches, you quickly understand why the students on this team are so excited about robotics. As Coach Ecker put it," we want the robotics program to ignite a passion for learning; our biggest goal is to build lifelong learners and problem-solvers in hopes that just maybe, these kids will be the future of engineering." 

Although the students on all three of Grassy Creek's robotics teams - WolverineBots, BatBots, and HulkBots - are 1st year robotics competitors, each team has proven to be quite a force to be reckoned with. And robotics isn't all they do - most of the students participate in other activities like basketball, baseball, Math Bowl, Spell Bowl, soccer, lacrosse, jujitsu, and football - however, when schedules interfere, most students will choose robotics over other activities. As one 4th grader put it, "Robotics has more to offer than football. In football, you don't really use your brain that much."

The WolverineBots from left: Hannah, Jocelyn, Natalie, Jala, Eli, and Raylen.

The WolverineBots from left: Hannah, Jocelyn, Natalie, Jala, Eli, and Raylen.

These students are certainly using their collective brain power on the robot field, and the results have been impressive! Eli, Hannah, Jala, Jocelyn, Natalie, and Raylen, the six students making up the WolverineBots team, were crowned Teamwork Champions at four different competitions this year for their top ranked robot performance. This group of 3rd and 4th graders are well-spoken, respectful, and driven to succeed, with a straightforward approach to delegating roles for each team member. 

One of the drawings Jocelyn did for the team's engineering notebook.

One of the drawings Jocelyn did for the team's engineering notebook.

"I tried driving but realized I wasn't too good at it," said Jocelyn, who is a designer and researcher for the team. "But I like writing, drawing and presenting so I decided to be a researcher and make our robot sketches in our engineering notebook."  Jocelyn joins Hanna as the primary researchers for the team. These two are absolutely essential to the team winning an Excellence Award earlier this year and receiving the opportunity to compete in all areas at Worlds. The Excellence Award is the top honor of each competition.  These girls have worked tirelessly to put together a sound research project and develop a strong design notebook!

When it was time to decide on drive teams, Jala and Natalie became a driving duo, using practice time to hone their skills. Natalie's ability to quickly park and balance on the bridge and Jala's skills in driving and scoring led the two to formulate their winning strategy - Jala drives first, scoring as many points as possible, then hands off the controls so Natalie can seal the deal on the bridge before the final buzzer. There's also a second team of drivers for the Wolverines - Raylen and Eli - who naturally work well together as well. Raylen and Eli found their stride with driving and are an essential part of the many teamwork awards the Wolverines have won. These boys equally share driving rounds with Natalie and Jala and often alternate rounds during the qualifications rounds.  These four know the teamwork challenge is a complete team effort and their support of one another is inspiring.

In the moment, the girls rely on one another's encouragement and coaching. "During the matches she reminds me what buttons to hit and gives me tips and advice," Jala says of Natalie's competition coaching. "Sometimes I even get mad because she's not telling me what to do! But we always make up really quickly as soon as the match is over."

Jala and Natalie driving their robot at IndyVRC. Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

Jala and Natalie driving their robot at IndyVRC. Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

The team didn't start the season as the powerhouse they are now. Jala was quick to explain that they didn't even make it to the finals during their first competition, fueling them to watch the winning teams' robots and take notes so they could later modify their robot to make it better. At their second competition they made it into the finals, but still didn't place at the top, so it was back to the drawing board during practice. Finally, during their third competition of the season, they made it to the finals and were part of the winning alliance - ultimate success! It was an experience that taught them the real-world meaning of the mantra "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." In fact, that mentality helped the girls compete and win during the final matches at the two biggest events in the state - in front of a HUGE audience and under a lot of pressure - the IndyVRC and the VEX IQ Elementary State Championship.

Jala and Natalie hold the Teamwork Champions trophy at the 2017 IndyVRC.

Jala and Natalie hold the Teamwork Champions trophy at the 2017 IndyVRC.

The kids on Wolverines, along with their friends on BatBot and HulkBot, have amassed 12 awards this year. This would not be possible with out the strengths that students from all teams bring to the group at Grassy Creek. The three teams have collaborated, shared ideas between teams, and provided practice and competition tips to one another for nearly 8 months. 

Now the whole team needs to keep that mindset as they head off to Louisville, Kentucky, for the biggest competition of their short robotics careers: the VEX IQ Robotics World Championship. They'll be competing against 280 of the best teams from around the world, with over 30 countries represented. "Honestly, our goal for Worlds is simply to enjoy the opportunity,"explains Coach Ecker, "We are going there aiming to make the finals, place in the Top 20 if at all possible.  However, we know that Worlds means the absolute best of the best. We are bound to have some incredible rounds but there's always a good chance that something will go terribly wrong at some point - and that's okay."

Although humble, the team seems ready. They even hosted additional practices during their school's spring break to prepare. But at the end of the day, win or lose, what will they do after the match? 

"Shake hands and give everyone a group hug!"

Sounds like a winning strategy to us. 

Indiana State Championship - Finals Match

TPF4Y Receives Grant from Salesforce.org to Accelerate STEM Initiatives

TechPoint Foundation for Youth today announced a grant from Salesforce.org, the philanthropic arm of Salesforce, that will support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming for students typically underrepresented in today’s STEM fields.

As the leader in technology education efforts for Indiana since 2001, TechPoint Foundation for Youth (TPF4Y) is committed to inspiring the state’s K-12 students to explore STEM fields, with a focus on diversifying the STEM workforce pipeline through targeted outreach to underrepresented student populations. Three initiatives are currently managed by the foundation, including the City of Indianapolis’ US2020 program, CoderDojo Indiana, and the State Robotics Initiative. The Salesforce.org grant will support both the US2020 program and the CoderDojo Indiana initiative.

“Our goal is to help nonprofits and educational institutions better serve their communities and deliver on their mission,” said Ebony Frelix, SVP of Philanthropy & Engagement at Salesforce.org. “By supporting TechPoint Foundation for Youth’s exciting STEM initiatives, we hope to accelerate change and create a better tomorrow for the next generation.”

US2020, a national movement focused on increasing the number of STEM professionals serving as mentors, hosted its inaugural city competition in 2013 and announced Indianapolis as one of seven winning cities from among 52 applicants across the country. TPF4Y is the coalition lead for the City of Indianapolis and, with the support of more than 50 corporate and community partners, has connected over 1,500 students to more than 7,700 hours of hands-on STEM programs during the first 2.5 years of the initiative.

The most popular of Indianapolis’ US2020 programs, CoderDojo, is a coding club that allows students to explore the world of computer science (CS) through hands-on activities, games, and self-led projects. In June 2016, TPF4Y launched CoderDojo Indiana, in partnership with the CoderDojo Foundation, to increase access to free CS education for Hoosier students. On July 22, 2017, CoderDojo Indiana will host its inaugural Hackathon, inviting all of its Indianapolis student “ninjas,” as well as attendees from 19 additional CoderDojos throughout the state of Indiana, to participate in a daylong event filled with fun, competitive CS projects.

“Salesforce.org’s commitment to philanthropy and the Pledge 1% program is inspiring,” said Laura Dodds, Executive Director of TechPoint Foundation for Youth. “We are thrilled to put their investment to work for thousands of K-12 students.”

TPF4Y welcomes the support of additional volunteers interested in facilitating CoderDojo clubs as well as other STEM programs like robotics teams and science clubs. If you or your company are interested in making a positive impact on students in your community, contact Volunteer@TechPointYouth.org for more information.

 

About TechPoint Foundation For Youth
In its 16th year as the leader in technology education efforts for the state of Indiana, TechPoint Foundation for Youth is committed to providing our state’s K-12 students, especially those typically underrepresented in STEM industry, with equal opportunities to explore hands-on STEM learning opportunities. We believe that Indiana’s youth should be not only equipped to address the growing demand for a skilled STEM workforce, but also be inspired to do so. We have been, and continue to be, the leader in connecting youth serving organizations, STEM programs, and STEM industry for the benefit of Indiana’s student populations. We are Growing Indiana’s Future. Visit www.TechPointYouth.org for more information.

About Salesforce.org
Salesforce.org is a nonprofit social enterprise with a mission to empower its community of stakeholders to accelerate impact in a whole new way. It impacts thousands of organizations and the millions of people they serve by delivering the world’s best nonprofit and educational technology solutions at affordable rates. It also inspires employee giving by matching their donations and driving volunteer engagement in the community. And it leverages a unique self-sustaining model to generously re-invest the revenue generated back into the community through strategic grants focused on education and workforce development.

Since 1999, Salesforce technology has powered more than 31,000 nonprofit and education institutions; Salesforce and its philanthropic entities have provided more than $160 million in grants; and Salesforce employees have logged more than 2 million volunteer hours around the world.

Salesforce, Salesforce.org and others are among the trademarks of salesforce.com, inc. Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

© 2017 salesforce.com, inc. and Salesforce.org. All rights reserved.

Indiana VEX IQ Elementary State Championship

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

On February 25th, more than 95 robotics teams from 38 cities around Indiana competed in the Indiana VEX IQ Elementary State Championship hosted by the State Robotics Initiative. The competition took place at the Campus Center at IUPUI with over 1,500 spectators in attendance. 

The State Robotics Initiative (SRI) launched in 2016 as an expansion of the successful IndyVRC program begun in 2013 by then Mayor Greg Ballard. A partnership between the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, TechPoint Foundation for Youth, Project Lead The Way (PLTW), and Ivy Tech Community College drives the initiative with the goal of bringing robotics to every school in the state of Indiana, beginning with our youngest Hoosiers.

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

With significant seed funding secured from Guggenheim Life and Annuity and support from long-time robotics funders USA Funds, Roche Diagnostics and Eli Lilly and Company, the number of elementary VEX IQ robotics teams in Indiana grew 600% during the 2016-17 school year. In 2016, 443 VEX IQ robotics teams were started in 198 cities and towns across Indiana as a result of grants provided by the State Robotics Initiative. Participating schools received robotics kits, registration fees, teacher professional development, and PLTW classroom activities to incorporate robotics during the school day.

Indiana has become a national leader in robotics education for elementary students and is now home to a grand total of 518 VEX IQ elementary teams, 96 of which qualified to compete at the State Championship. The 26 winning teams from State will now move on to the World Competition in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 23-25, 2017. Indiana’s qualifying teams will compete there against 275 teams from more than 20 countries to take home some of the most coveted awards in youth robotics.  

In addition to the championship, TechPoint Foundation for Youth hosted the 4th annual interactive STEM fair with more than 20 booths and over 500 students in attendance. The free event was open to the community and allowed students to experience hands-on, interactive science, math, and technology activities.

State Championship award winners

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To learn more about the Statewide Robotics Initiative, visit the their webpage.

5th Annual IndyVRC Robotics Tournament

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

On January 7th and 8th, 162 teams of students from around Marion County competed in the 5th Annual City of Indianapolis VEX Robotics Championship (IndyVRC). The competition was held in Nicoson Hall at the University of Indianapolis.

The first IndyVRC featured only 36 high school teams but demonstrated the possibilities of a robust, hands-on STEM education program. Now in its fifth year, the event has grown to more than 160 teams from elementary, middle, and high schools who compete for scholarships to Rose-Hulman, IUPUI, and University of Indianapolis, plus internships, advancement to the state finals, and the competition's top honor: the Ballard Excellence Award, renamed last year in recognition of Former Mayor Greg Ballard's contribution to STEM education in Indianapolis.

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

The IndyVRC’s success led to the newly formed Statewide Robotics Initiative, spearheaded by TechPoint Foundation for Youth with major support from funders and partners like Guggenheim Life and Annuity, Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Herbert Simon Family Foundation, Project Lead The Way, USA Funds, Eli Lilly and Company, and Roche Diagnostics. The two-year initiative will supply grants to 800 elementary schools throughout Indiana, giving them a robotics kit, teacher training, classroom activities, program support, and high intensity compeititons.

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

“Seeing so many Indiana students with access to a robotics team is truly a realization of Former Mayor Ballard’s dream when he first initiated the IndyVRC back in 2013,” said Laura Dodds, Executive Director of TechPoint Foundation for Youth. “The event started as a way to get robots into the hands of all Marion County students, and inspired an initiative that could expand that goal to all Hoosiers.”

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

Photo by Ellie Sophia Photography

Indianapolis is home to companies in need of a workforce skilled in advanced manufacturing, robotics, and technology, but the education pipeline from grade school to employment is often lacking. The IndyVRC was launched five years ago to accelerate the development of high-quality K-12 educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and help bridge the gap between workforce readiness and employer need. The Statewide Robotics Initiative is continuing to grow this concept on a larger scale, using the same IndyVRC model but starting at the elementary school level with the hope of working up the education ladder.

“The State Robotics Initiative was made possible after a huge kickstart from our partners at Department of Workforce Development and Guggenheim Life and Annuity,” said George Giltner, State Director of Robotics at TechPoint Foundation for Youth. “This initiative has catapulted Indiana into the position of a STEM education leader in our country, with more VEX elementary robotics teams than any other state, and we look forward to seeing how this impacts our future workforce.”

The VEX IQ State Championship is coming up on Saturday, February 25th and is still in need of volunteers - often with no experience required! To look at available positions and sign up, click here.

This year's IndyVRC was a huge success! Here's a look at the event by the numbers...

Awards List

* denotes qualification for the State Championship

Ballard Excellence Award

High School VRC: 6210X Heritage Christian Robotics*
Middle School IQ: 323S Cornerstone Robotics North*
Elementary School IQ: 11106A Pleasant Run Elementary*

Guggenheim Life and Annuity Tournament/Teamwork Champions

High School VRC: 

6210X Heritage Christian Robotics*
6210Z Heritage Christian School*
6078S Speedway High School*

Middle School IQ:

323S Cornerstone Robotics North*
20048A FTMS East - Robotics*

Elementary School IQ: 

10992A Grassy Creek Elementary*
10404A Cold Spring School*

Indiana Workforce Development Design Award

High School VRC: 6842Z Park Tudor Middle School
Middle School IQ: 10272 Paramount School of Excellence*
Elementary School IQ: 10394A Indian Creek Elementary*

Think Award

High School VRC: 6926V Providence Cristo Rey High School
Middle School IQ: 6210A Heritage Christian School
Elementary School IQ: 10990 Sycamore School

Judges Award

High School VRC: 323G Cornerstone Robotics
Middle School IQ: 20048D FTMS East - Robotics
Elementary School IQ: 10714B Center for Inquiry 2

Robot Skills Champion

High School VRC: 6210X Heritage Christian Robotics
Middle School IQ: 323S Cornerstone Robotics North
Elementary School IQ: 10990 Sycamore School

Roche Innovate Award

High School VRC: 7368W Covenant Christian High School

STEM Research Project Award

Middle School IQ: 1024V Fall Creek Valley Middle School*
Elementary School IQ: 10477 Paramount School of Excellence*

Create Award

Middle School IQ: 10775 Sycamore School
Elementary School IQ: 38102X Sidener Academy Redhawk Robotics Grade 3-4

Volunteer of the Year Award

Jessica Cummings, Rolls-Royce

1,160 Students Impacted by Hour of Code!

Three students at Sidener Academy work together on an Hour of Code activity.

Three students at Sidener Academy work together on an Hour of Code activity.

Last week, TPF4Y facilitated Hour of Code at three Indianapolis Public Schools in order to celebrate Computer Science Education Week for the third year in a row. CS Ed Week is a worldwide, grassroots campaign to encourage as many K-12 students as possible (with over 323 million served so far!) to participate in an Hour of Code activity. Students around the globe are encouraged to try their hand at coding by completing one of Code.org’s introductory activities. We invited the students we worked with to try CodeCombat (for middle schoolers) and Disney's Moana: Wayfinding with Code (for elementary schoolers).

A student at IPS School #51 is excited to start the Moana Hour of Code activity.

A student at IPS School #51 is excited to start the Moana Hour of Code activity.

On Monday, December 5th, and Wednesday, December 7th, TPF4Y partnered with Harshman Magnet Middle School, IPS School #51, and Sidener Academy to expose students to the world of computer science. Some of the students had experienced Hour of Code in the past, while it was a new experience for others. 

"Seeing the students gain confidence in their coding skills as they completed each exercise was awesome," said Lindsay Siovaila, a Salesforce employee and co-founder of Girl Develop It - Indianapolis. "In just a short time, these students began to build better problem solving and reasoning skills, and it was cool to be a part of that and help inspire the next generation of computer scientists!"

Lindsay Siovaila, co-founder of Girl Develop It - Indianapolis, works with students on an Hour of Code activity.

Lindsay Siovaila, co-founder of Girl Develop It - Indianapolis, works with students on an Hour of Code activity.

Thanks to over 100 volunteers provided by several corporate partners, we were able to impact almost 1,200 IPS students over the course of two days. Our efforts were even featured on Inside Indiana Business with an article and quick video. Click here to check it out.

While Hour of Code has wrapped up for this year, our CoderDojo Indiana initiative is always looking for dedicated volunteers passionate about bringing computer science to underserved students. Currently, there are 20 CoderDojos in Indiana and we are in need of volunteers at several clubs in Indianapolis as well as throughout the state. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering at a CoderDojo club, please complete this form and we'll contact you with more information!

THanks to our Hour of Code partners:

Women in STEM: Tiffany White

Tiffany White Chief Project Engineer, Helicopters Rolls-Royce

Tiffany White
Chief Project Engineer, Helicopters Rolls-Royce

Tiffany White joined Rolls-Royce after graduating from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical - Astronautical Engineering, and has spent 22 years contributing to the propulsion system solutions for more than ten different kinds of aircraft. Currently one of seven Chief Project Engineers in the helicopter business, Tiffany is truly an exemplary woman in STEM.

Tiffany's career path started when, as a junior in high school, she took physics and loved it, even after her mom lovingly suggested that it might be too hard and her uncle told her she couldn't be an engineer because she was a girl. While at first physics did prove difficult, she was able to see the practical applications of the lessons almost immediately. Not a particularly strong player when her church youth group would play pool, the game suddenly made sense and her skills increased when some of her homework used pool balls at the basis of the problems. Her teacher encouraged her to look at engineering careers, and with the popularity of the space shuttle program in the news, she was inspired by the Challenger tragedy in 1986 to improve the safety and ensure the longevity of space travel. In fact, the poster of the Challenger on its launch pad that hung in her dorm room in college is framed and hangs in her office to this day.

Rolls-Royce engineers collaborate over an M250 engine.

Rolls-Royce engineers collaborate over an M250 engine.

Tiffany's earliest roles at Rolls-Royce were in project engineering at the "whole engine" level, which provided her with a broad understanding of gas turbine propulsion. Feeling she lacked any deep functional knowledge, she transferred into control systems, where she spent 10 years becoming an expert on how to control engines while honing her leadership skills with a masters degree in program management. Then, instead of moving straight up the proverbial ladder, she moved laterally and spent time learning everything she could about turbine components and subsystems, making her a stronger engineer with more informed decision-making skills. So when a Chief Project Engineer position unexpectedly became available, she was perfectly positioned with the technical foundation in controls, turbines, and project management as well was the necessary soft skills like leadership and team management. 

Bell 407 helicopters that use the M250 engines.

Bell 407 helicopters that use the M250 engines.

In her role as Chief Project Engineer, Tiffany serves as the technical authority for the M250 engine, defining engine accomplishments and attributes, serving as the point of contact with customers, ensuring cost and schedule targets, and interfacing with the FAA and foreign and military airworthiness authorities on safety reliability, and certification. M250 engines are used to transport workers to and from oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. They are used to lift huge logs out of the forest instead of cutting roads through the trees. Rolls-Royce helicopters using M250 engines allow electrical linemen to be lowered onto high power lines. They give vacationers a birds eye view of the volcanos of Hawaii, the Smoky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon. They even give Indianapolis commuters an idea of how badly traffic is backed up on I-69 in the mornings via WTHR Channel 13's helicopters. Tiffany's M250 supports products that transport the critically injured to hospitals around the nation and protect U.S. soldiers and sailors around the world. The range of uses and magnitude of their impact make the products she oversees simply fascinating. 

A Kiowa Warrior helicopter that uses an M250 engine.

A Kiowa Warrior helicopter that uses an M250 engine.

As a long-time member and 2016-2017 President of Women & Hi Tech, Tiffany has continued to be an engaged role model for women in STEM fields. She concedes that the gender-related drop in self confidence that females face in school often continues into their careers, but encourages women to surround themselves with supportive friends, family, and coworkers. Support can be found in many forms; organizations like Women & Hi Tech provide opportunities to network with other confident successful women and blogs like this one showcase the highly technical and exciting roles women have in the community.

Pike Teachers Go Back to Class for Inaugural Teacher TechConnect Event

INDIANAPOLIS, November 10, 2016 – Teachers help children decide their career paths long before either is focused on it by recognizing aptitudes and encouraging them to focus their studies accordingly. But, if the teachers don’t know the array of career possibilities, it’s impossible for them to give every student the best guidance possible. Local tech leaders’ worry over this issue has led to the creation of a new Indianapolis initiative – Teacher TechConnect.

“Only by working together can businesses and educators solve the technology talent gap problem,” said Jeff Ton, Bluelock executive vice president of Product and Service Development. “The Teacher TechConnect collaboration breaks down the wall between business and the classroom and creates an ongoing, mutually beneficial conversation to fill the talent pipeline with qualified candidates.”  

From 2009 to mid-2015, the U.S. high-tech software and services job sector outpaced all other sectors, growing by more than 730,000 jobs, or 34.4 percent, according to a 2016 CBRE Research survey. Central Indiana ranked 8th in terms of this job growth, at 18 percent.

Indiana workforce experts predict demand for tech employees will continue to exceed supply. The region is projected to add at least 51,500 tech jobs by 2025, but schools are slated to produce only half of the needed credentials and degrees to fill those jobs. At the elementary and secondary school level, technology jobs are currently being created faster than they can be integrated into school curricula. Workforce experts say 65 percent of today’s schoolchildren will be employed in jobs that have yet to be created. Many of these jobs will be in the technology sector.

Ton said it wasn’t difficult for Bluelock, a disaster recovery services provider, to find partners for Teacher TechConnect. Angie’s List, TechPoint Foundation for Youth, Pike High School and others were quick to sign on for the event, as well as assist in execution, as the initiative will subsequently benefit employers throughout the state.

Joe Hand of Interactive Intelligence, former Mayor Greg Ballard, and Warren Lenard of Finish Line were three of the panelists.

Joe Hand of Interactive Intelligence, former Mayor Greg Ballard, and Warren Lenard of Finish Line were three of the panelists.

“We’ve seen a huge shift from the days when I was in school and jobs with a math, science or computer-focus seemed to be for the guys,” said Robin Fleming, Angie’s List senior vice president of Technology. “One problem we’re facing now in the tech industry is that tech is viewed as a place mostly for coders. Many companies need to fill tech jobs that call for broader skills – UX design, data management experts, DevOps, product management, agile scrum masters, technical project managers and more, so we need to make sure teachers and students know that.”

Nathanial Jones, superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, said he was eager for Pike High School to be the initiative’s first setting and predicted other area schools will want to hold their own Teacher TechConnect gatherings.

“Teachers want to help their students reach their potential, regardless of whether it’s a tech or a non-tech future,” he said. “Our staff was quick to embrace this opportunity to expand their knowledge base and we were thrilled to be able to make it happen for them.”

Teachers from Pike Township enjoyed an appetizer buffet at the event before the panelists began speaking.

Teachers from Pike Township enjoyed an appetizer buffet at the event before the panelists began speaking.

Dozens of teachers from Pike elementary and secondary schools joined tech company and community leaders for the three-hour event at the Pike High School cafeteria. Teachers who want to dive deeper into tech were invited to enroll in a shadow program that will bring teachers in for a day at local tech companies so they get a closer look at what goes on inside those innovative walls.

TechPoint Foundation for Youth, a nonprofit focused on increasing access to STEM learning opportunities for K-12 students, will house a Teacher TechConnect resource page to connect teachers to opportunities for themselves and their students.

“Central Indiana is rightly being seen as a tech hub, but we have to act now to ensure Hoosiers will be the ones filling the jobs that come along with this emergence of tech companies,” said former Mayor Greg Ballard, who took part. “The array of jobs is staggering – everything from the technical things like coding and software development to soft skills that focus on sales, project management and communicating with others about what these products and tech advances mean.”

Karen Jung, president of Nextech, a nonprofit focused on bringing tech into school classrooms, said teachers are interested in adjusting their curriculum but want to know more about what the companies’ workforces actually do. Nextech will offer a summer course for teachers this summer in addition to a course for students to learn.

“We hope our efforts will include curriculum additions that any school can adopt, even in the elementary schools,” Jung said.

Among the leaders taking part:

  • Greg Ballard, former Mayor of Indianapolis and University of Indianapolis Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archive
  • Laura Dodds, TechPoint Foundation for Youth executive director

  • Robin Fleming, Angie’s List SVP of Technology and Women & High Tech board member

  • Joe Hand, Interactive Intelligence senior practice leader of Global Managed Services

  • Karen Jung, Nextech President

  • Warren Lenard, The Finish Line VP, Technology & Operations Solutions

  • Dewand Neely, State of Indiana CIO

  • Valerie Osinski, Project Lead the Way SVP and CTO

  • Jeff Ton, Bluelock EVP of Product and Service Development

  • Rhonda Winter, Bluelock EVP of Cloud Operations and Support

We're Hooked! A Rookie Team's First VEX IQ Competition

VEX robotics competition season is officially underway! Events are taking place around the state nearly every weekend between now and February 2017, giving robotics teams the opportunity to collaborate and develop their skills in a competitive environment.

South Newton VEX IQ team poses for a team picture. Even though they didn't feel ready for their first competition, the event taught the team so much and really brought them together!

South Newton VEX IQ team poses for a team picture. Even though they didn't feel ready for their first competition, the event taught the team so much and really brought them together!

We understand registering for that first competition can be a little unnerving. With almost 350 brand new Indiana teams working towards competing for the very first time, we asked one new coach to share her team’s experience at the October 29th Crown Point VEX IQ Tournament. Read Ms. Janice Skinner’s thoughts below about her South Newton elementary team’s first ever competition and why she’s so glad she was encouraged to let go of her uncertainty and give her students the opportunity to compete!

 



How many students do you have on your team?

  • 13 students from grades 3rd - 5th grade

Do you coach alone or do you have help? Did you have former robotics experience?

  • I am currently the only coach. I had no previous knowledge of robots. However, not knowing all of the answers has turned out to be really beneficial, as the students are forced to learn and persevere when there are challenges. It really makes them take initiative and ownership when they are asked to find the answer themselves.

How many practices did you have prior to your competition?

  • We began practicing in mid-September, working towards the October 29th competition that I had signed us up for. We did get about 6 weeks of practice in, but by the time the competition got here, we still weren’t sure we were ready...

What concerns did you have going into the competition?

  • I actually emailed the Event Partner to tell her that I had decided we were only going to come and watch instead of participate, as I was afraid we would ruin the competition because we were not ready. Fortunately, the Event Partner encouraged me to participate, reminding me that the outcome of the scores would not matter, the event itself would be a great learning experience, and that we were all in it together. She made me feel so much better and I’m so glad I decided to go through with it.

What are some things that surprised you about the competition?

  • There were so many. We never once felt like we didn’t belong. There was so much camaraderie amongst all of the students. Even though all kids and teachers were busy, they still found time to stop and help one another. I learned so much from speaking to other teachers and students. We are hooked!

What will you do in preparation for your next competition?

  • Having the field and having a second robot is going to be extremely helpful with a group of 13 students. Knowing exactly the measurements and dimensions of the field will allow the team to better plan and strategize. I’ve found it’s really beneficial to be certain every student has a role; for example, Scorekeeper, Designer, Social Media, Driver, Builder, Driver Schedule Manager, etc.

What did the students like best about the competition?

  • Getting to work with students from other teams that they otherwise had never met or known. Figuring out how to communicate and work together as a team. Watching other teams compete helped expose the students to new strategies and designs that they had not considered. Having fun while working hard!

What advice would you give to other new coaches around the state?

  • Regardless of feeling like you may not be ready, register for an event and give your students the opportunity to experience a competition! You won’t regret it.

We hope this was helpful for all of you out there who are feeling nervous about registering for, or attending, an upcoming competition. Remember, scores and standings are secondary to the values your students will gain through collaborating as a team and being exposed to other teams around the state!
 

Ms. Janice Skinner teaches at South Newton Elementary and was awarded with a State Robotics Grant through TechPoint Foundation for Youth in Summer 2016. To learn more about the State Robotics Initiative, visit www.techpointyouth.org/robots/

If you are interested in sharing your story, please email us at robotgrant@techpointyouth.org.

 

US2020 Indy Research Featured at National Conference

This past October, findings based on the US2020 initiative in Indianapolis were presented in Omaha, Nebraska, at the 2016 Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC), a 2-day conference drawing more than 500 attendees from across the country that features projects with a unified goal of building strong community partnerships.

File_000 (9).jpeg

Laura Green, one of TPF4Y's former AmeriCorps VISTA members who has continued her commitment to STEM education programming through her graduate work at IUPUI, now works as a research assistant for the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology. In this role, she is doing research on corporate volunteerism and STEM education, while also continuing to share her passion for these topics by recruiting college students to lead US2020 programs and tracking the impact of volunteer efforts.

Laura attended the pre-conference workshop called "Oh the Places We'll Go: Service Learning Partnerships in Practice," where she participated in discussions on how to create meaningful service learning partnerships between universities, K-12 schools, and the community. Then, during the ESC conference, Laura had applied, and was accepted, to make two presentations that were focused on: 1) lessons learned from the first two years of the US2020 program from both an industry and university perspective, and 2) the US2020 volunteer experience and its impact on the volunteers.

In order to give our local partners a recap of this enlightening research, we wanted to share some of the data highlights from Laura's presentations: 

research graphic.png

These are great statistics from US2020 volunteer feedback, but you might be wondering what it means for the bigger picture as TPF4Y continues to engage corporate partners with STEM volunteer opportunities. Luckily, Laura broke it down in her presentation to the basic components of success:

When companies promote US2020 volunteer opportunities,

an enjoyable volunteer experience for employees + perceptions of company support

= positive perceptions of the company by their employees,

which, in turn, leads to increased organizational commitment

In alignment with other research, these findings indicate that volunteers who enjoy their experience and feel supported by their company are likely to attribute their positive experience to their company, and thus, feel pride in, and a commitment to, working for their company.

In a nutshell, it's beneficial to companies to encourage volunteerism among their employees as it leads to increased employee happiness with their employer! TPF4Y is excited to support this trend by continuing to engage corporate partners with fun, hands-on STEM volunteer opportunities at our US2020 school and community center sites. If you, or your company, are interested in learning more, contact Maggie Cline at Maggie@TechPointYouth.org!

#TechTuesday: Best Drones for Kids

UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones) are all the rage! If you have kids, they're probably already asking for one, or will be soon. But drones come in so many different shapes, sizes, colors and options that determining the best (and safest) drone for children can be a task all on its own. To help with this, our friends at We Talk UAV, a drone review site, have compiled a list of some drones worth considering for your tech-inspired children.

Cheerson CX Mini - one of the smallest drones out there, it fits in the palm of your hand. This means it can't overcome the wind, so it's a good way to keep kids occupied indoors. This is the perfect starter drone; super lightweight so there's no damage when it inevitably flies into objects (or people). The Cheerson offers 8 minutes of flying time and adjustable speeds.

Syma X5C - a solid starter drone for children interested in aerial photography. Kids will have a blast filming from all new perspectives they can later show off on Youtube. The drone is medium-sized with a wingspan just over 12 inches and the built-in camera features a great 720p resolution. The 2.4 Ghz radio controller reaches a respectable 50 meters, but the camera drains a bit more power, giving the X5C a flight time of only 6 minutes.

Parrot Mini Spider - comparable to the X5C, the Spider also has a camera. But the Mini Spider's camera doesn't record in HD, which means a slightly longer fly time of 8 minutes. Unlike the X5C, the Mini Spider has a unique set of large wheels on either side, creating a sort of cage. The wheels also allow the drone to roll across the floor, wall, even the ceiling! The drone itself is controlled from your mobile device over Bluetooth, which limits the range. Overall, the Mini Spider is great for kids who can't seem to get the hand of flying and find themselves crashing a lot.

DBPower UDI U845 UFO Drone - speaking of unique, the DBPowers UFO is one of the strangest out there. Unlike the previous three drones which have four propellers, this one has six. This is known as a hexacopter design, which adds more stability and a completely different look. The UFO design and LED lights are a sure-fire attention grabber, but this drone also offers an onboard HD camera that can live-stream over WiFi to a mobile device, up to 30 meters. This doesn't hamper flight time as the DBPowers UFO offers 9 minutes in the air, making this drone for the more curious, intentional and perhaps slightly older child.

Hopefully this has given you a better understanding of what to look for in a drone. Kids will love any drone you give them off this list, but there are lots more out there so feel free to continue your research. Happy flying!

Yunhong Liu is the founder of We Talk UAV, a new drone community and news site launching later this year.

Broad Ripple Kiwanis Club Supports STEM!

Broad Ripple Kiwanis Club (BRKC) is a local division of Kiwanis, an international initiative that serves some of the most vulnerable constituents in communities, with a target population that includes children and the disabled. In our community, BRKC's volunteer work revolves around tutoring at IPS schools, donating books to local youth organizations, supporting the Salvation Army, and providing grants to worthy causes within the midtown area. TPF4Y has been the lucky recipient of several grants from BRKC, in support of computer science and robotics for girls.

Last spring, a generous donation from BRKC funded the purchase of 10 laptops to support the US2020-managed CoderDojo coding club that operates out of the Speak Easy, just south of Broad Ripple at 53rd and Winthrop Avenue. CoderDojo is a free program, but at community-based locations, students must bring their own technology in order to participate, creating a significant barrier for low-income students. Thanks to BRKC's donation, ten spots are now available every month for students who are not able to bring their own laptops, ensuring that anyone and everyone is able to attend the Speak Easy Dojo. (Want to sign your child up to participate in the Speak Easy CoderDojo? Click here!)

"The Broad Ripple Kiwanis Club made a commitment to our midtown community to help improve our local public schools," said Marianne Beck, member of the BRKC Board of Directors. "We felt that CoderDojo was a great way to extend the work we do with IPS. To us, better schools mean better communities and we have enjoyed partnering with TechPoint Foundation for Youth to help make that happen!

The BRKC-sponsored laptops served double duty over the summer at a US2020 coding program at Horizons at St. Richard's, where students completed Hour of Code activities and spent six weeks working on Code.org and other fun curriculum. BRKC also sponsored the All Girls FLL Challenge, put on by TPF4Y and several other partners, which impacted almost 50 girls from 9 robotics teams during a day-long, off-season tournament.

Because we are so grateful for their continuing support of TPF4Y programs as well as the work they do in the Broad Ripple community, we can't wait to join them on Friday, October 7th for their fifth annual Pints for Half Pints fundraiser benefitting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs in midtown IPS schools. There will be live music, food trucks, raffle prizes, and games, plus you'll receive a souvenir pint glass! To purchase tickets, click here

We hope to see you at this fun event and look forward to continuing our partnership with BRKC!

US2020 Year 3 Kickoff Party!

The event was hosted at Angie's List, one of our US2020 corporate partners.

The event was hosted at Angie's List, one of our US2020 corporate partners.

Two weeks ago, we celebrated the start of a new US2020 school year with our annual Kick-Off Party. We can't believe it's already our third year participating in this national initiative, but we're excited about the successes we've seen and the progress we're looking to make during the upcoming school year. 

While the majority of the event was dedicated to networking over appetizers and drinks, we had a few remarks to recognize the successes of one of our partners as well as several volunteers. Ahmed Young, Director of the Mayor's Office of Education Innovation, kicked off the remarks by announcing the renewed support of the US2020 initiative by the City of Indianapolis under Mayor Hogsett, a partnership we value greatly and are excited to continue.

Next, since the event was attended by so many wonderful volunteers, it was only right that we recognized some of our best and brightest, who were nominated by their peers for their US2020 involvement.

This year's US2020 Mentors of the Year were:

Kim Smith

Kim works at First Internet Bank, where she is instrumental in helping to recruit and organize volunteers for the US2020 initiative. In addition to supporting volunteerism in the office, she has volunteered with the Math Pentathlon program at Indian Creek Elementary School for two years, where her enthusiasm for mentorship is evident.
 

Michael Horn

Michael is a graduate student at IUPUI, currently working on a master's degree in biomedical engineering. For the past two years, he has dedicated his time to the FIRST LEGO League Junior program at IPS 14, inspiring young students in the robotics program with his passion for learning and helping others.

Shenyo'a Nubuya

Shenyo'a works for T2 Systems and has volunteered for numerous CoderDojos throughout Indianapolis. Students at Launch Fishers, Horizons at St. Richard's, and Indian Creek Elementary School have all benefitted from having her as a mentor, as she is passionate in her belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to learn and better themselves.

 

Ahmed Young from the Mayor's office poses with Kim Smith, Shenyo'a Nubuya, and Maggie Cline, US2020 Program Director.

Ahmed Young from the Mayor's office poses with Kim Smith, Shenyo'a Nubuya, and Maggie Cline, US2020 Program Director.

We are so grateful for the commitment of our volunteers, without which US2020 wouldn't be a success. While our students are the biggest beneficiaries of our volunteers' continued dedication to our STEM programs, they tell us it's a two-way street and that they gain just as much from their interactions with the students.

"For me, the best part of being a CoderDojo volunteer is watching a student complete their first coding program on their own," said Shenyo'a Nubuya. "The reaction is priceless!"

Maggie Cline poses with Mathew Palakal and Vicki Daugherty of IUPUI, as well as with Ahmed Young from the Mayor's office.

Maggie Cline poses with Mathew Palakal and Vicki Daugherty of IUPUI, as well as with Ahmed Young from the Mayor's office.


During the Year 3 Kick-Off Party, we also took the opportunity to recognize a local finalist in the category of Excellence in Public-Private Partnerships for US2020's national STEM Mentoring Awards that were presented in Washington D.C. at the beginning of August. Since our local partners couldn't be at the White House for the awards ceremony, we wanted to publicly congratulate the Indiana University School of Informatics & Computing at IUPUI. Their Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce (iDEW) initiative was recognized for its work to deliver a diverse and knowledgeable workforce to the IT sector via a partnership between the School of Informatics & Computing and local high schools, industry, and community organizations. 

We're so grateful to every partner, volunteer, and funder that commits to supporting the US2020 initiative. Each school, company, and individual volunteer helps us make a lasting impact on Indianapolis' underrepresented youth!

STEM-tastic Summer Learning!

Shanna Martin, Executive Director of Horizons at St. Richard's, was fielding calls from parents wondering why their children wanted to be picked up late on Wednesdays this past summer. The answer? CoderDojo, a US2020- run coding club being facilitated by volunteers during Horizons' aftercare program.

Horizons at SRES is a six-week summer program aimed at decreasing the learning loss that low income students experience during the summer months, a time during which their higher income counterparts are continuing to learn and grow because of their access to educational summer programming. Horizons offers students high quality academics as well as cultural-enrichment and confidence-building activities such as swimming, arts, and sports. 

"CoderDojo has been a great extension of the Horizons program because it's learning that is fun," Martin said. "The children are learning how to organize their thinking and express ideas using technology. It's such a valuable enrichment activity that I'm hoping we can continue to offer it to students in the future."

This past summer, three volunteers from Sharpen and T2 Systems worked with a group of 10 second and third grade students for an hour each Wednesday of the summer program, facilitating their understanding of computer science through coding games. And while it is enlightening for students to learn the basics of coding, it's just as fun for volunteers.

"I'd say the most rewarding aspect of the experience was the excitement and level of engagement demonstrated by the students each week," said one volunteer. "I've always enjoyed working with kids, and though it can sometimes be trying, the joy on their faces whenever they solved a challenge, or grasped a new concept, was contagious. It reaffirmed my love of coding!"

US2020 also facilitated summer volunteer opportunities at the Lilly and Wheeler-Dowe units of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, bringing in 24 volunteers from 4 companies to expose students to exciting STEM programs like Math Pentathlon and CoderDojo. The addition of summer programming is new for US2020, which facilitates mostly after-school programs during the school year, but with such great feedback from students and volunteers alike, is definitely something that will be repeated next summer!

Meet the US2020 VISTAS!

After searching far and wide to fill the available VISTA positions in the US2020 initiative, we chose three new team members, Brandi Caruthers, Connor Karns and Sordum Ndam, to fulfill the roles of School Coordinator, Program & Evaluation Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator, respectively.

AmeriCorps VISTA is a federal initiative where volunteers elect to live at the local level of poverty and serve their community, usually by working with a nonprofit. Think Peace Corps, but domestic. Our VISTAs work to maintain and grow the sustainability and capacity of US2020

Meet this year's VISTAs below:

Brandi Caruthers
US2020 School Coordinator

Brandi serves as an intermediary between volunteers and the schools and community center sites where they will serve. She will attend sessions, addressing any questions or concerns, coordinate evaluation efforts, and expedite on-boarding of new schools and sites.

Fun Fact: Brandi is a cartoonist! She especially loves drawing anime.

Connor Karns
US2020 Program & Evaluation Coordinator

Connor leads evaluation procedures for the US2020 Initiative in Indianapolis. He will work to maintain pre-existing evaluation methods, including surveys, manage database input and reporting, and work to ensure student and volunteer engagement.

Fun Fact: Connor is a collector of Hawaiian shirts! He frequents local Goodwills to find more.

Sordum Ndam
US2020 VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR

Sordum is in charge of volunteer recruitment, in coordination with Maggie Cline, our Program Director. She will manage corporate partnerships, develop different ways to recognize exceptional volunteers, and coordinate social media outreach. 

Fun Fact: Sordum longboards and has gone up to 30 mph!

 

We're really excited to start Year 3 of the US2020 initiative both with returning and new members of our team. We'd love it if you walked along with us this year!

Major Funding Announced for Statewide Robotics Initiative!

INDIANAPOLIS, July 25,2016 - TechPoint Foundation for Youth says a nearly $300,000 donation from Guggenheim Life and Annuity Company will fund the first year of a statewide robotics initiative. The program, which involves organizations including VEX Robotics, NASA and Indianapolis-based Project Lead The Way, will include 400 elementary schools in its first year. Former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Guggenheim Vice President Karen Maginn discussed the program this weekend on Inside INdiana Business Television.

Organizers say the program will serve 400 elementary schools and 40,000 Hoosier students in its first year. The initiative aims to grow interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through robotics. It is initially focusing on fourth and fifth graders, but is expected to expand into middle and high schools.

The state announced the program in April. At the time, Indiana Department of Workforce Development Associate Chief Operating Officer Dennis Wimer said it would address a "critical" need to get kids interested in STEM fields early in their academic careers. In a release, he said the effort sparks excitement among students as "they talk about the competition and they talk about how they're doing this kind of programming or they're doing this kind of robot and the whole time they're talking about the science and engineering pieces of it, and thinking about it more from an enjoyable gaming aspect."

Ballard, who was a champion for the initiative during his time as Indianapolis mayor, says the passion for STEM being sparked by robotics programs is "simply phenomenal."