The Robotics Academy of Nevada – a new statewide professional development program funded by Tesla’s K-12 Educational Investment Fund – is being developed by the Desert Research Institute, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and University of Nevada, Reno. Facilitated by DRI’s STEM Pre-K-12 education and outreach program, Science Alive, the new academy will launch this summer in partnership with the Colleges of Engineering at Nevada Research Universities in Reno and Las Vegas.
The Nevada Robotics Academy includes two week-long teacher trainings designed to help 200 middle and high school teachers move from curiosity to confidence in coaching robotics programs in their schools, with support from a year-round mentor. Hosted on college campuses and taught by university faculty in engineering and education, the Academy demonstrates the commitment to building pathways from pre-K-12 to college degrees and high-tech careers.
“The most widely used system for encouraging students to participate in robotics-related activities are competitive leagues, FIRST Robotics leagues for example,” said David Feil-Seifer, project leader for the University and professor. computer science and engineering assistant.
The energy and interest that robotics competitions can generate has been seen at the University of Nevada, Reno Innevation Center-Powered By Switch. In 2019, the Makerspace at the Innevation Center again served as the home base for FYRE Robotics as the 15 team members, ages 13 to 18, designed and built their robot for the nationwide FIRST Robotics competition (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology). Several of FYRE’s six mentors this season were Tesla employees, and the team received support through Tesla’s K-12 Education Investment Fund.
“They bring the Makerspace to life in the evenings and our members who work late in the Makerspace comment on the exceptional energy and work ethic of the FYRE team,” said Crystal Harvey, Deputy Director of the Innevation Center. “The Makerspace is being used exactly as intended, to bring ideas to life, and FYRE Robotics mentors are able to bring this resource to K-12 students who are passionate about STEM, hands-on building, and design. innovative.”
“It’s really life-changing for a child, and it has nothing to do with what robot the kids build or whether it works or not,” FYRE Robotics lead organizer and mentor Kerry Thompson said about of the annual competition. “It doesn’t matter if they can drill a straight hole or drive a straight screw. It has to do with what they learn and what they can accomplish.”
Brendan O’Toole, chair of the mechanical engineering department at UNLV, project manager for UNLV, and longtime FIRST Robotics mentor and coach, agreed. “I have seen firsthand how robotics programs prepare students to solve tough problems and strengthen the school-to-career STEM pipeline by inspiring students to explore science, engineering, and technology options,” did he declare.
The Robotics Academy of Nevada Workshop for Teachers will introduce engineering and robotics into the existing curriculum across Nevada. Content will include an introduction to engineering processes, careers, and integration methodologies. Additional content will specifically address the implementation of competitive robotics and computer programming and cyber literacy.
“We will be hosting a Northern Nevada Robotics Competition Workshop, which will be open to stakeholders of such a program, such as league administrators, school personnel, parents, university staff, and community members. of private innovation as a hands-on, zero-to-competition experience,” Feil-Seifer added.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to help create the Robotics Academy of Nevada, which will not only support our teachers in a strong and extensive professional development program, but also provide them with the additional support they need while throughout the year,” said Amelia Gulling, Director of Science Alive STEM Education at DRI. “The major highlight of this statewide initiative has been the collaborative partnerships that have been developed with our fellow NSHE institutions, robotics competition programs, and school districts.”
Funding for the Robotics Academy of Nevada is part of Tesla’s $37.5 million investment in K-12 education in Nevada, intended for programs that encourage students from all backgrounds to consider careers in the STEM or sustainability. Tesla began rolling out the education investment in 2018 and will deliver it over five years.
The summer 2019 trainings will be held in Las Vegas from May 28 to June 1 at UNLV and in Reno from June 17 to 21 at the University. The training will be free for educators and all educators will receive a stipend and continuing education credits. Non-local participants will also have accommodation covered as part of the training.