COLUMBIA – The Columbia Board of Education unanimously approved a grant that would help incorporate robotics programs across the district at its Monday night meeting.
Money would go toward after-school robotics programs through the FIRST organization.
FIRST hosts competitions in lego league, tech challenge and robotics competition, for kids ranging from kindergarten through high school.
According to a CPS spokesperson, FIRST has been involved in the school district for many years. Jefferson Middle School in Columbia has sixth and seventh grade FIRST LEGO League Challenge teams and an eighth grade FIRST Tech Challenge team. High school students also participate in FIRST Robotics through the Columbia Area Career Center.
Now that the school board has approved the grant, robotic programs could expand beyond Jefferson Middle School.
According to the Columbia Missourian, the district received a grant application from Dana Inc. This would help fund FIRST robotics programs in the district.
Jefferson Middle School robotics team coach Kate McKenzie is the applicant on the form, which requests $ 36,000.
The money from the Dana Inc. grant would fund new after-school programs and a tournament that would be held later this year. The district said its goal for this year is to form 17 new FIRST LEGO League teams at elementary and middle schools, as well as three new FIRST Tech Challenge teams at high schools, according to the Missourian.
Lab Space Robotics, located in Jefferson City, offers STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) workshops and classes for kids. It offers robotic projects, digital art, coding, engineering and game design courses.
Annette Alberts, the owner and teacher at Lab Space Robotics, said it’s important to give children STEAM opportunities early on.
“So if you build those concepts from ages six, seven and eight, all the way up through high school, the things that those high school kids are going to understand intuitively, because they’ve held it, they’ve done it with their hands, they’re going to understand intuitively what they need to do when they get to those robots, ”Alberts said.
Alberts said children can learn in real life skills in robotics programs.
“Getting them in there with a screwdriver and getting them in there with drills and experiencing what’s elastic potential energy, and what does it do?” Alberts said. “Those things are so fundamental for so many things, whether it’s robotics later on, or you’re working at your house, and you need to figure out why the door won’t [open]. It’s real life skills. “
Alberts said when she is helping her students with their projects, she sees many amazing things.
“It’s amazing just to see the excitement that they have over what they have done. And to see their willingness to stay and work, ”Alberts said. “It’s just amazing how much they pick up our STEM club for grades six through eight.”