written by: Gina Abbas
TechFarms has been working closely with RoboNation for several years now, but not everyone has heard of them and knows what they do. Here’s some background.
Though interest in STEM careers in the U.S. has increased from dismal numbers in the ’90s, it is still a sorely overlooked career path. The trouble, in part, starts with the lack of focus STEM education receives in middle school. Studies show that the subjects and extracurriculars offered and encouraged during middle school are critical in a child’s chosen career path — and in the U.S., STEM doesn’t appear to be as highly encouraged as in other nations. In 2016, for example, China and India led the U.S. in STEM graduates with 4.7 million and 2.6 million respectively, while the U.S. had only 568,000.1
Enter RoboNation, a non-profit organization focused on stimulating interest among students of all ages in science, technology, engineering and math in hopes of convincing more of them to pursue STEM career paths. According to RoboNation, 80 percent of jobs require math and science skills, a number that proves the importance of piquing an interest in STEM from an early age.
But how does RoboNation redirect kids away from popular pastimes like video games in favor of math and science? Well, they don’t exactly.
RoboNation believes they can mold a child’s fascination with video games into something exponentially more productive — hands-on robotics skills. By harnessing a child’s inherent imagination with robotics, RoboNation not only enhances their existing education, but provides them with a foundation for a future in STEM.
Formerly known as AUVSI Foundation Inc. (the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), RoboNation says it aims to create “an open community of tech gurus, pacesetters, inventors and visionaries laying the groundwork to be on the cutting-edge of the technology and engineering world.” This dedication led to the start of a series of educational programs and robotics competitions that give students an outlet outside of the classroom to apply their STEM smarts.
Among the most popular of these programs is SeaPerch, a global outreach program and competition that teaches K-12 students robotics, engineering, science and math in the form of building an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The competition began as a project in a children’s book over 10 years ago, but has far surpassed its original concept and become a beloved event with international participation.
Other RoboNation programs include SeaGlide and RoboTour, which is a one-day free event for students in grades 5-12 to attend AUVSI’s XPONENTIAL conference – the world’s largest community of leaders in drones, intelligent robotics and unmanned systems.
Along with these educational programs, RoboNation also conducts numerous international competitions by land, air and sea:
Land: Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC)
Air: Student Unmanned Air Systems (SUAS) and International Aerial Robotics Competition (IARC)
Maritime: RoboBoat, RoboSub, Maritime RobotX, and the SeaPerch Challenge
These programs and competitions not only capture students’ interest, but are already opening doors in future STEM careers; participation has often been rewarded with internships and employment opportunities for students while still in school.
The influence RoboNation has had on young minds around the world will undoubtedly have a lasting effect on the way STEM is viewed by not only children, but parents who might not understand the importance of how STEM careers will shape our future. As RoboNation’s ecosystem continues to grow, we can be hopeful that the lives they are changing through STEM will translate into a greater STEM ecosystem for our country, made up of the rising numbers of students choosing these careers.
1 “The Countries With The Most STEM Graduates”, Forbes