Leadership magazine March/April 2017 V46 No. 4 - Page 33

in filling positions because of lack of skills grew from 14 % in 2010 to 40 % only three years later ” ( Brookings Institution , Still Searching : Job Vacancies and STEM Skills , 2014 ) . “ Robotics K-12 is not just a program or activity ; it ’ s a career ,” stated Robert Mc- Collum , HUSD Director of Curriculum , Instruction , and Assessment .
“ When students learn to code in the primary grades , imagine where they will be in the future ,” exclaimed Superintendent David McLaughlin . It clearly upheld the district ’ s vision of “ Preparing Today ’ s Students for Tomorrow ’ s World .”
“ Robotics is the essence of STEM education ,” said Darrel Nickolaisen , HUSD Director , K-12 Programs . “ Students learn how to build , design , and evaluate a quality robot objectively based on solid science , math , technology , and engineering foundations ,” stated a high school robotics teacher . Students collaborate to solve complex challenges using engineering principles and models which transcend into their other classes . “ Using components of robotics was a great way to apply STEM skills and knowledge they learned ,” said a secondary principal .
The inclusion of a robotics program noticeably increased student engagement and elevated STEM awareness district-wide , as well as in the community . HUSD student demographics are similar to the community with 72 % socio-economically disadvantaged , 18 % English Learners , and 11 % students with disabilities . Student ethnicity is 63 % Hispanic , 25 % White , 8 % African- American , and 4 % other . A unique feature embedded in Robotics K-12 allowed students to enter the realm of robotics at various levels regardless of age , gender , range of ability , language , or socio-economic status ; safeguarding equitable access opportunities for all students .
Since its introduction six years ago , HUSD competed at local , county , state , and world robotics competitions , earning podium victories of great magnitudes , developed STEM and technology A-G courses and electives at secondary sites , created two robotics leagues , hosted K-12 site competitions , implemented a Cisco Networking Academy , generated innovative Career
Students collaborate to solve complex challenges using engineering principles and models which transcend into their other classes .
Technology Education ( CTE ) pathways , offered industry recognized certifications , introduced coding , started a robotics camp , established industry advisory boards , and cultivated business partnerships . Robotics K-12 unquestionably yields 21st Century college and career prospects for students .
“ HUSD is the model for all other school districts for Vex Robotics ,” stated Nancy McIntyre , Vex , Robotics Education , and Competition Foundation , Regional Manager , at a board meeting . “ They are the only ones in the state , maybe even the nation , that have a K-12 program .” She commended the board and superintendent for their support of the innovative robotics program . She also acknowledged teacher Jay Winters , who earned the Volunteer of the Year award at Vex Robotics Championships in Louisville , Kentucky , announcing he was inducted into Vex Robotics STEM Hall of Fame 2015 .
Winters created the High Desert Robotics Vex Competition League for high school and middle school . He was honored for “ representing the district , mentoring students and staff , and being a leader in California .” Today , HUSD represents about 10 % of California participants in VEX Robotics according to Winters .
Rather than traditional teacher-led instruction , students are given hands-on problems to solve by working collaboratively using components of STEM to reach practical solutions . Through participation in Robotics K-12 , students leave HUSD with the possibility of industry recognized certifications and entry-level employment and / or sets them on a specific academic pathway at local universities in the fields of technology and engineering .
The focus of the Robotics K-12 program was to introduce students to innovation through knowledge , concepts , and skills needed to traverse the 21st Century interactive world of robotics . The foremost outcome for students was to gain a deeper understanding , build confidence , and foster fluency needed to navigate technology systems . And to have fun in the process .
A teacher new to the program observed , “ The inclusion of robotics in education has provided students with an opportunity to collaborate closely with a team to strategically solve problems in a reflective manner .” She added , “ We learned right along with the kids .”
“ In addition to learning valuable engineering skills ,” VEX promotes , “ students gain life skills such as teamwork , perseverance , communication , collaboration , project management , and critical thinking .” VEX Robotics Competition “ prepares students to become future innovators with 95 % of participants reporting an increased interest in STEM subject areas and pursuing STEMrelated careers .”
Competitions are played in a robotics arena where alliances of two teams compete against each other using STEM concepts as the foundational cornerstone developing their designing , programming , and communication skills . Competitions include teamwork , robotic skills , and programming challenges . Leadership skills and teamwork
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