Providing our youth a path to explore robotics technology at the middle school level is very rare. STEM and robotics will be a large part of the future when these children graduate from college.
A partnership between a Chicagoland tech firm and an Oak Park STEAM-focused nonprofit will sustain the growth of an award-winning middle school Robotics program that aims to give more girls and students of color exposure to high-tech careers, officials announced November 7th, 2017.
Resource 1, a leading IT consulting firm in the Chicagoland area, kicked off a challenge grant campaign to expand exposure to a free Robotics program offered by the Oak Park Education Foundation (OPEF), an independent nonprofit that brings hands-on STEAM enrichment to thousands of local students.
“We know that our financial support and commitment will help develop great scientific minds for our future,” said Anastasia Valentine, Executive Vice President and Managing Director at Resource 1. “Providing our youth a path to explore robotics technology at the middle school level is very rare. STEM and robotics will be a large part of the future when these children graduate from college.”
One of OPEF’s fastest growing programs is VEX Robotics, which allows teams of middle school students to design, build, control, and program robots. They work under the guidance of high school mentors and teacher coaches to develop skills in teamwork, problem-solving, and creative thinking. VEX Robotics launched as a competitive club in 2005, and grew to sponsor 24 teams across two middle schools.
Last year, the program expanded to include an In-House League, with the goal of offering a more teaching-focused and less-intensive experience to a new audience of students. Last year, 25 percent of the Robotics students were female, and 32 percent were students of color. This year, OPEF launched the Chicagoland Robotics League, with the goal of expanding middle school robotics programming and competitions in surrounding school districts.
“We are thrilled to welcome Resource 1 as an invaluable partner in this popular program, which is so important to building the kind of life and career skills our students will need in the 21st century workplace,” said Tracy Dell’Angela Barber, OPEF executive director. “OPEF and Resource 1 know that the high-tech workplace does not represent the diversity of our society, and together we want to create more pathways for young women and students of color to discover their passion and untapped potential through the exciting world of robotics.”
The Resource 1 Challenge Grant will allow OPEF to maintain Robotics as a free program for all Oak Park students. Robotics costs about $500-per-student to provide, which has been challenging to sustain given the tremendous popularity and growth of the program. The Challenge Grant also will allow OPEF to purchase updated equipment and competition game elements.
More than 90 percent of students involved in the OPEF VEX Robotics program improved in perseverance, problem-solving and confidence, according to parent surveys. Students also reported an improvement in skills, teamwork, and confidence.
Samantha Braun, who spent three years in the Robotics club in middle school and is now a high school mentor, said it’s important for both girls and boys in the club to see her and other females as leaders in this high-tech activity. “I loved feeling like I could build something from scratch that could move and compete on its own,” said the junior at Oak Park River Forest High School. “Once I succeeded, I knew it was something I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to major in engineering.”
Tyler, a 7th grader who started in robotics his first year of middle schools, said about the experience: “I learned everyone has different ideas and when put together it can work really well. I had to let other people try their idea to see if it worked, and it was cool that they let me try my ideas to see if they would work. I really liked our bot and I’m so excited for the state tournament.”
OPEF hopes that by making these opportunities more accessible they will promote excitement about the STEM field while also nurturing key skills that will aid students in their future career path.
For more information about donating to the OPEF VEX Robotics program and how Resource 1 is showing support, visit https://www.opef.org/vex-resource1/.
About Resource 1
Resource 1 was founded in 1982 with the goal of delivering outstanding IT staffing and consulting services to Fortune 1000 companies across North America. Resource 1 differentiates itself through its non-transactional relationships and deep technical expertise. They go the extra mile to transform their pursuit of perfection into superior IT talent acquisition. Resource 1 is a true partner, helping IT experts and organizations achieve their objectives and representing them in the marketplace with honesty and integrity. Their success is built on a careful balance of time-tested strategies and innovative tactics that keep them ahead of evolving industry standards. For more information, visit http://r1consulting.com/ or call 630-575-5155.
About the Oak Park Education Foundation
Founded 28 years ago, the Oak Park Education Foundation brings artists, architects, scientists, and technology experts into K-8th grade classrooms at every District 97 school. Community partners share their passion for learning while conducting hands-on projects with more than 4,200 students last year. The Oak Park Education Foundation is an independent, privately funded nonprofit. OPEF also runs BASE Camp, an exceptional STEAM-focused summer enrichment program that helps fund OPEF’s free in-school programming. For more information, contact Tracy Dell’Angela Barber, 773-612-6064, tdellangelabarber(at)opef(dot)org
Share article on social media or email: