Robotic program helps students build STEM skills - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Robotic program helps students build STEM skills

(Source: KWES) (Source: KWES)
MIDLAND, TX (KWES) -

A STEM robotics program at Lee High School is allowing students to put their engineering skills to good use.

"It takes brainpower, you can't just come up with it out of nowhere," said Cristian Valeriano.

It brings science, math and technology to the next level.

"The nice thing about it is you step back and help them if they need help," said Alan Pitkin, Career and Technical Education Teacher of STEM Robotics. "You want them to use their brain to think and problem solve. Say, 'Hey Google something, see how something works, see how the real world is using it and implement it in your robot."

Building a robot isn't as easy as it looks. It takes brainstorming, teamwork, problem-solving, executing and trial-and-error.

"Building takes a lot of precision," said Christian Martinez. "It's really key to this. One small mishap can ruin the whole thing. Building takes a lot of hours. After school, we come, on weekends and in the summer."

"When we first got started, it was grasping an idea," said Valeriano. "First, it's where to start. We make the wheels and build off from there. We need to pick up a ball, we need something to pick up a ball. It's piece by piece."

Every year, students in the program learn and prepare for a robotics competition towards the end of the year called First Robotics. It's one of the biggest competitions where teams build robots and compete against each other and win scholarships. But it doesn't come cheap and only a small portion of school funds are used with help from the MISD Education Foundation.

"When you have to go to regionals, like Georgia, it's $12,000 to $15,000," said Pitkin. "Houston is $5,000. It also depends on how many kids you take. Some of these kids haven't been out of Midland. I give them the experience and see what the world is doing. Midland isn't that far out and Midland can compete with anybody."

The program has become successful thanks to the Midland Independent School District Education Foundation and its sponsors from SM Energy, the J Robert Jones Charitable Trust Foundation and Pioneer. 

"They see a value in giving your money to the school for robotics," said Pitkin. "It's all being put to good use."

But these funds are what get the gears turning for these students to become successful and inspire the next generation of engineers.

"It's beneficial to learn now then get put out in the world and not know what to do," said Valeriano.

"I want to go to A&M, which has a good engineering program as far as architecture," said Martinez. "I feel like this will help me get there and achieve it." 

To help and sponsor the program, you can contact Jami Owen with the MISD Education Foundation here

There will be a Phillip Phillips concert that will benefit the MISD Education Foundation this Saturday, Sept. 9, 8:00 p.m. at the Midland County Horseshoe Amphitheater.

Copyright 2017 KWES. All rights reserved. 

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