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State celebrates Robotics Week, promotes opportunities to boost skills needed for future careers

LANSING — As we wrap up Robotics Week in Michigan, state officials encourage students, educators and parents to join them in highlighting the importance of robotics education, which encourages problem-solving, creative thinking and a healthy sense of competition that drives innovation from students and prepares them for high-demand, high-wage careers.

“Robotics programs offer students a fun, hands-on approach to classroom lessons and experiences to build skills and interests leading to college and career pathways in good-paying technical fields,” said Megan Schrauben, Executive Director of the MiSTEM Network.

During this school year, over 2,100 robotics teams at all levels and programs representing more than 400 districts across the state applied for robotics grants. Michigan ranks second for having the most robotics teams in the nation and Michigan’s high schools rank first among the nation’s high school statewide programs (including FIRST in Michigan, Robotics Education Competition Foundation and Square One).

The MiSTEM Network’s efforts have supported the expansion and integration of robotics education to build a stronger STEM culture in Michigan. Robotics requires all subjects of STEM and is a well-rounded approach to educational technology and learning. Many of Michigan’s high-demand occupations through 2028 integrate competencies acquired through robotics curriculum.

The Southeast Region of the MiSTEM Network is working toward integrating more robotics programming into curriculum for students across the state. They regularly host a Ten80 Competition where students work together to re-engineer a car and attend an invitational where they can test out their new innovations in a hands-on, interactive setting. Students and educators cultivate 21st Century skills through team-oriented challenges.

“Ten80 gets students interested in STEM and helps our teachers to think about how they can bring this kind of learning into their classrooms, so more students can benefit,” said Scott Heister, MiSTEM Region 2 director. “Ten80 helps students understand and actively participate in the innovation process that drives today’s economy.”

While in-person Ten80 events are not running, teachers and teams have transitioned to an Autonomous Vehicle Challenge, which allows them to run this program in their classrooms or remotely, using virtual systems.

In partnership with the Macomb Intermediate School District, Macomb County and Square One, Region 4 of the MiSTEM Network aimed to increase engagement for high school robotics students this year as a result of lost opportunities from the pandemic. They put together a project that would re-engage students with transferable skills in robotics, with Macomb County allocating the funds. The opportunity was open to all public-school districts in the county and all high schools that had First Robotics Competition (FRC) teams. Another component of the program in addition to robotics competencies was equipment enhancements for teams and districts, with no cost for any student, teacher or district to participate.

“The goal of this partnership was to support a talent pipeline for the robotics sector and advance robotics efforts in our region,” said Mark Muzzin, STEM Consultant for the Macomb MiSTEM Region. “When educators and students have access to the tools and curriculum necessary to engage more students in the robotics arena, they can give them valuable, real-world skills that open pathways to building a better future.”

Educators and students are encouraged to explore and apply robotics into their curriculum, to better prepare for the diverse array of career pathways available in Robotics and STEM fields. All programs mentioned above are supported by state school aid funds in combination with valuable community partners. To learn more, visit Michigan.gov/MiSTEM.

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