To a passersby, it might have looked like the 24 middle and high school teachers gathered on the New Mexico State University campus this past weekend were just playing around. They were actually building robots and at the same time, working toward building a better future for our nation. The teachers were the guests of the NMSU Engineering New Mexico Resource Network and Scientifically Connected Communities and on campus learning how to start and mentor school-based robotics teams, and ultimately, entice their students to pursue higher education in our nations' most needed disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.
"We've partnered with the College of Education to support teachers and help them build a common curriculum using the VEX platform to expose their students to engineering concepts through robotics, whether they do it in the classroom or through co-curricular school activities, like NM BEST Robotics," said Patricia A. Sullivan, assistant dean of the College of Engineering.
The VEX Robotics Design System is the platform used for students to design and build programmable robots and learn about science and engineering principles as well as experience teamwork, leadership and problem solving among groups. It is used in the NM BEST Robotics Competition and in the Project Lead the Way curriculum, among others.
The College of Engineering became the NM University Affiliate for PLTW in 2006. PLTW provides a curriculum for engineering and sciences that has been designed by teachers, engineering and science professionals and school administrators. Some 8,000-plus New Mexico students were exposed to STEM this past year through the more than 20 schools in the state participating in PLTW.
More than 500 students from throughout the state participated in the NM BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) Competition that was hosted by the college this past fall. NMSU has been the hub directorate for NM BEST since 2001.
There are currently seven VEX Robotics Teams in the state, one of which is at White Sands Missile Range and the others in the Albuquerque area.
"We are hoping to host a state VEX Robotics Competition on campus next year, and start an NMSU collegiate team which could serve as a senior capstone project, as well," said Sullivan. "Plans are underway to hold several robotics summer camps for middle and high school studentsâ€”one each in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Carlsbad."
For more information about NMSU College of Engineering STEM education programs, visit http://www.engr.nmsu.edu/outreach.shtml or call 575-646-2013.