Most Indiana teachers are required to renew their teaching license every five years, which entails accruing 90 hours of professional development during that time frame. New professional license-renewal requirements were recently announced by the state of Indiana, requiring teachers who are renewing their license through “professional growth points,” which is the most common renewal path, to ensure that 15 of their 90 hours are workforce-related hours. This new requirement goes into effect on July 1, 2019, and is meant to give teachers professional development related to better preparing students for the workforce.
TechPoint Foundation for Youth, through its State Robotics Initiative, is offering 175 elementary and middle school teachers a chance to gain those hours by engaging their students in a fun - and free - robotics program.
Establishing a robotics team requires a coach - usually a teacher - who meets weekly with students for 10-16 weeks. TPF4Y funds the first year, providing a re-usable robotics kit, team registration, and professional development training on how to manage a robotics team. Coaches are also trained to complete a “classroom to career” activity with their students to show how competitive robotics directly relates to real world college and career pathways, a grant requirement that directly correlates to the teacher license renewal requirement. Teachers from schools awarded a grant:
Receive $760 worth of robotics supplies
Receive 15 hours of training that count toward Professional Growth Points that align with new teacher license requirements per House Enrolled Act 1002
Taking on the role of robotics coach gives teachers a free and fun way to gain the hours of professional development they need while also setting their students up for success in STEM jobs, something that is especially important given the increased STEM workforce demands in our state. Between 2017 and 2027, STEM jobs will grow 13% in Indiana (versus a 7% growth for non-STEM jobs). Plus, the median earnings in Indiana STEM jobs are more than $15 per hour higher than their non-STEM counterparts, and unemployment is significantly lower in STEM occupations. Many of the new workforce-related professional development opportunities that are surfacing for teachers are focused solely on fulfilling this new requirement, but lose sight of the opportunity for true professional development. TechPoint Foundation for Youth’s grant provides a long-lasting program that benefits Indiana students, while simultaneously helping teachers to achieve their professional development goals.
With a high impact program like the State Robotics Initiative, the numbers often speak for themselves. There is a 93% retention rate for teams receiving the comprehensive robotics start-up grant program from TechPoint Foundation for Youth, which speaks not only to the success teachers have had in implementing the program, but also the impact it is having on student participants and eventually, the Indiana economy.
Since the launch of the State Robotics Initiative in 2016, TechPoint Foundation for Youth has increased the number of VEX IQ robotics teams in Indiana from 73 to 1,536, more than any other state in the country. That means that more than 18,000 students are participating on those teams and, when asked, respond that they are more likely to attend college and pursue a STEM career thanks to their experience on the team.
Currently, eighty percent of Indiana school corporations have at least one school with a VEX IQ robotics team, but there are still more than 1,000 Indiana elementary and middle schools who are eligible for a robotics start-up grant and have yet to apply. TechPoint Foundation for Youth has $133,000 worth of grants to give away to 175 grant recipients for the 2019-20 school year.
Robotics helps kids learn to solve problems, create things, collaborate, and communicate with each other and their supervisors, vital 21st century workforce skills employers are asking for in their new hires. Other benefits include encouraging students, with a focus on reaching girls and children from underappreciated communities, to consider STEM careers, which will help Indiana increase minority representation in tech careers.
Creating a program like the State Robotics Initiative requires a cross-sector collaboration between school corporations, corporate partners, and community partners. Some of TechPoint Foundation for Youth’s partners who are making this happen for Indiana students include: the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Guggenheim Life and Annuity, Roche Diagnostics, Eli Lilly and Company, and others. These partners each play a role based on the needs they see in our communities, whether that’s finding ways to connect students and teachers to real world experiences, building a pipeline of future employees, or developing workforce skills.
TechPoint Foundation for Youth needs the support of donors, volunteers, and coaches in order to make this program successful, so please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you see yourself filling one of these roles. If you want to check a specific Indiana school’s eligibility for the grant, you can also visit the robot map webpage.