‘Massive STEAM party’ to be held with regional robotics after A&P Commission provides $ 10,000 in funding | News

A “massive STEAM party” will be held in conjunction with the FIRST Robotics regional set to start at Harding University at the end of March.

The Searcy Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission agreed last week to provide $ 10,000 in funding for the event, a Tinkerfest Beats and Eats on April 1 at Harding.

The event was described by a group calling itself the Creative Group of Arkansas, which requested the funding, as a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics outdoor festival with activities for all ages. The money will be used to pay rental fees for the exhibits provided by the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock, according to the application.

An inaugural Beats and Eats Tinkerfest was held at the end of last April in the downtown area as a fundraiser for the Museum of Discovery after its pipes broke and the building was flooded, according to Searcy Beats and Eats Committee member Tim Westbrook. “After we had a successful event, we decided to do it again this year.”

In the original proposal, he said the group had an April 30 date for Tinkerfest but decided “why not throw a massive STEAM party that overlaps with the robotics tournament?”

The FIRST Robotics Competition Arkansas Regional, which is also being funded by the A&P Commission, is set to run from March 31-April 2 at Rhodes-Reaves Field House.

Westbrook said Tinkerfest is expected to be a “big draw.” The expected attendance listed on the application is 2,500. Beats and Eats Committee member Jenna Friday said all of the schools in White County are being invited. She said the committee was hoping to get flyers to send home with the kids, inviting them to Tinkerfest. Friday also mentioned that the committee was reaching out to Cabot.

The event will include live music, other entertainment / activities and food trucks, Friday and Westbrook said. Westbrook added that because Tinkerfest would be “piggybacking” with the robotics tournament, Harding would also be sponsoring the “Out of Bounds” sports talk radio show at the field house. The show airs weekdays from 1-4 pm on KABZ, 103.7-FM, in Little Rock.

Commissioner Jim House said it should be emphasized that Harding is donating use of the facility. Westbrook said Harding Public Safety also has agreed to block off the parking lot between the graduate dorm and Benson Auditorium during the event.

The total budget for Tinkerfest is $ 15,000, Westbrook said.

The goal of the nonprofit Creative Group of Arkansas, according to the application “is to provide cultural and personal enrichment through access to STEAM initiatives and enhancing the educational, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellness of Arkansas communities.”

The funding provided by the A&P Commission for the robotics tournament was $ 66,000. Harding Academy Robotics Coach Brian Jones said the regional is “an official event. We have teams coming in right now from five different states and Mexico. ”

Jones said this is a “multi-night stay, so we’ll have a number of teams, especially our Mexico team, come in on Wednesday night, March the 30th. So we’ll have those multi-night stays, they’ll be able to have dinner, all that kind of stuff as well. ”

The $ 66,000 is the same amount the A&P Commission pledged in 2020 to try to bring a FIRST Robotics regional tournament to the White County Fairgrounds in 2021. However, the season was “pretty much shut down” that year because of COVID-19, Jones said .

“It’s been a crazy couple of years for our side with school sports and everything… and our program is international,” Jones said.

The Ozark Mountain Brawl offseason scrimmage that was held at the end of last October was also funded by $ 7,000 from the A&P Commission and was a “huge success,” according to Jones. “We probably had 600 people in attendance. We polled at the gate and we hit our 80 percent in hotels, overnight stays, so that was our goal. Our numbers were down due to COVID, but we still hit our percentage of hotels there as well. ”

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