When most people think of the science, technology, engineering and math fields known as STEM, they think of science labs, math equations and nerds in thick-rimmed glasses.
What may not necessarily come to mind, is the field of robotics. An interdisciplinary field, robotics combines skills from science, math, engineering and technology to build machines that can be used for fun purposes such as fighting other robots and being utilized in life-saving medical technology.
While many people may agree that robotics seems like an interesting field of study, similar to most STEM subjects, it has the potential to scare people away from pursuing the subject due to a fear of lacking the skills necessary to succeed in the field.
This anxiety around being unable to pursue STEM fields such as robotics is precisely what Greensboro-based STEM education nonprofit, e3 Robotics, aims to mediate.
Founded in 2014 by Maria Rosato, e3 Robotics was formed as a non-profit organization with the purpose of educating and cultivating an interest for children in STEM fields.
The various ways with which e3 Robotics engages children in STEM and specifically robotics, is through STEM afterschool workshops, a competitive robotics team and leadership and volunteer opportunities.
In their mission statement from Rosato, e3 Robotics specifies that these programs, “consist of after school K-12 METALS™ workshops, our METALS™ Competition, teams and a leadership development program we run with the help of our partners Guilford County Schools, the Forge, Caldwell Academy, Uwharrie Charter Academy, Erwin Montessori, The North Carolina Leadership Academy, The College Prep and Leadership Academy, MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education), The Math and Science Academy, and Fusion 3.”
Geared towards developing STEM and robotics skills in children in local schools in the Triad area, in their program statement, e3 Robotics additionally emphasized the services they provide are available to elementary, middle and high school students.
“In addition to our METALS™ Competition, our Robotics teams are run in various schools throughout the community as well. Elementary, middle, and high school students participating on our teams witness the exciting world of math and robotics as they choose an area of math to research, and also design and build robots using the technology of their choice to solve a set of missions in our Robot Game. Our Underwater Robotics Team, powered by a grant we received from MATE, familiarizes elementary, middle and high school students with the technology of Oceaneering, (and potential careers in underwater robotics) as they build Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) that they launch underwater in a regional tournament we host every year. The Innovators is a team for high school students who wish to learn STEM skills, how to build robots, programming and CAD, and engage in leadership training, and internship and mentorship opportunities as well. These students assist with an outreach robotics club held at the early middle college at GTCC where they use fun, hands-on projects to encourage other high school students to pursue careers in STEM,” said the e3 Robotics programing statement.
A representative from e3 Robotics, Sandra Nikula, spoke to me about why she believes that educating children about STEM and robotics from an early age is important.
“Occupations in STEM and robotics are going to rise, and we’re not only trying to promote that interest, but connect children to the STEM industry in Greensboro, the Triad and North Carolina area. We need more people, we need more inventors, we need more ground-breaking devices, we need more computer programmers, we need more engineers, we need people with those skillsets nowadays and a lot of people in the workforce are looking for people that have these skillsets. We want to make young people see that there are jobs around here that want people to go into engineering and related science and technology fields. We’re trying to open the doors for everybody, especially women, because traditionally they are very underrepresented [in STEM] as well as minorities,” said Nikula.
Rosato’s future plans for the non-profit, as explained in an e3 Robotics case statement, says that, “Maria’s next big vision for the organization she built is to see an Innovation Center located in Guilford County that will serve as our headquarters, and help us make a larger impact in exciting, educating, and encouraging children about the thrilling and fulfilling world of STEM.”