Programmed For Success...Preparing Students for Robotics and High-Tech Careers

Each year FLATE hosts a robotics night for parents and middle school students who attend the LEGO robotics camps this year. This year’s fast paced, one hour information session, held at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon, served as a rich storehouse of information primarily on robotics and STEM, and was attended by 17 people. The program highlighted STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-based resources available at local schools; career and educational opportunities for students interested in pursuing STEM pathways, and an overview of FLATE”s two year A.S. degree in engineering technology currently being offered in community colleges across the state.

Rob Weinburg, district resource teacher for career and technical education curriculum and STEM initiatives at the School District of Hillsborough County (SDHC) in Florida and Jake Prokop, from the Helios Foundation provided an in-depth overview about the SDHC’s, middle school STEM Institutes (More Information about the STEM Institutes on FLATE’s Blog), and high school STEM career academies. Weinburg and Prokop highlighted a best practices/benefits reaped from the institutes’ STEM models, and briefed attendees about upcoming robotics events. Students and parents also got an opportunity to tour the manufacturing lab at HCC, and were encouraged to take advantage of the resources available on the “Made in Florida” website. Response from parents as well as campers was overwhelmingly positive.

Alyssa Joyner, a 7th grader at Madison Middle School who attended FLATE’s intro camp last year and the
advanced camp this year says the robotics camp have tremendously helped with schoolwork. Joyner who was also this year’s door prize winner—a complete LEGO kit—says she is “more into STEM now than before.” Gregory Starks another camper who attended the 2011 intro camp, and a 6th grader at Greco Middle School, says the “stuff” he learnt at the robotics camp has helped him with engineering classes in school. His grandfather, Paul Helbing, agrees the robotics camp spurred Gregory’s interest in robotics, and sharpened his penchant for science.

In addition to its impact on students, FLATE’s robotics camps have also fired up parents’ interest in STEM/robotics. Kim Bone, whose son Dalton Hensley attended the 2011 advanced camp, recently started a robotics club at Turkey Creek Middle School in Tampa where she teaches 7th grade science. Bone says she was inspired to start the program at her school after watching her son flourish/enjoy FLATE’s robotics camp. “A lot of my students are Hispanic and face the possibility of working in the fields. Familiarizing themselves with latest technology will give them the tools to seek better opportunities” Bone said. The club, comprised of 10 boys and 12 girls, recently had its first meeting, and is poised to explore and have a “lot of fun” with robots.

For more information about the robotics camps please call or email FLATE’s Outreach Manager, David Gula at 813.259.6581/gula@fl-ate.org, or visit http://www.madeinflorida.org/.