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Program Spotlight Feb 16

Preparing for the Future  Program Spotlight: RoboTech

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” ~Steve Jobs

The real mission of education is to prepare students for the future. Preparing today's students for tomorrow's careers, many of which haven’t been created yet, is not an easy task given the rapid pace of change. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education will provide pathways to successful careers for today’s young people. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor is showing members STEM opportunities to motivate and inspire them to excel academically and explore career opportunities. RoboTech, the Club robotics program developed and taught by engineers from Whirlpool Corporation, is also providing applications of science and complex problem solving in a real workplace. 
Achievement in STEM education begins with interest seeded at an early age. Young people prepared to think critically using the Scientific Method have the chance to become future innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders—solving the most pressing challenges facing us today and into the future. Too few youth have access to quality STEM learning opportunities and many, especially young women, are not aware science is a springboard to their careers. 

The United States has historically been a leader in STEM education, yet fewer students are now focusing on these topics. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16% of high school students are interested in a STEM career and demonstrated proficiency in mathematics. Currently, nearly 28% of high school freshmen declare an interest in a STEM-related field, the department website says, but 57% of these students will lose interest by the time they graduate from high school. 
A student’s race, zip code, or socioeconomic status should not limit their STEM fluency. We expect our members to graduate from high school with a plan to thrive in a modern STEM economy. To increase exposure to STEM opportunities, the Fettig Youth Campus introduced RoboTech in partnership with Whirlpool Corporation’s WERLD Program engineers. The RoboTech program provides Club members a fun and educational introduction to the field of robotics and an understanding of electronics, mechanics and software are integrated into creating high-tech solutions. The WERLD (Whirlpool Engineering Rotational Leadership Development) Program gives recent college engineering graduates an extensive introduction to engineering and technology from a global product development perspective while allowing engineers to give back to the local community.

Club members have the opportunity to work one-on-one with the engineers to learn the fundamentals of robot design, building, programming and testing. They’re also building relationships with caring adults, learning about why they choose to become engineers, the importance of doing well in math and science, and collaborating to solve problems. The recent class was split into four teams who competed in a robotics competition held at Whirlpool Corporation’s St. Joseph Tech Center. During the competition, course learnings were put into action with each team cheering on its robot in an actual work environment.

In a letter to their team, Whirlpool Corporation engineers Annie, Sarah and Shannon said, “We had such a great time working with you all. Your focus and excitement throughout the project made it fun to work with you each week and allowed you to learn so many different things about physics, robotics, and teamwork.” They continued, “Keep stretching yourself to learn problem solving, as well as creative and analytical thinking. With these skills and your determination, you can tackle all different kinds of problems and issues you may face down the road!” 

In closing the women said, “We hope you continue to learn more about STEM and robotics and someday become awesome engineers like us!” All of us at the Clubs hope that, too.
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