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.