The Talent Search program at Weatherford College launched a new robotics program in January for middle school students who participate in the federal TRIO program.
During the program’s initial session, students learned about robot systems, limitations and environments and were ultimately able to control the actions of two different robots.
“The exercise required concentration and attention to procedures,” said Jerry Barrow, industrial program coordinator. “Every student in the class was able to accomplish the tasks required of them on two similar but different robots. Even with the differences in the procedures required by the two machines these students were able to adapt and apply their understanding. It will be a great class. I am very excited and look forward to next month.”
Talent Search received a supplemental grant from the Department of Education to conduct STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programming enabling WC to offer this program and associated field trips to students at no cost. Students meet at WC monthly with two dates to choose from to fit their schedules.
“The overall goal is to provide stimulating and interactive robotic workshops for middle school students to help them develop a positive attitude towards STEM at an early age and to provide the students with basic STEM knowledge and skills, particularly in robotics,” said Dr. Deborah Cregger, WC Talent Search director.
The college purchased one robot for this program and a second was donated by Wolf Solutions allowing students to engage in hands-on learning opportunities.
“Robotics and artificial intelligence is the future,” said Dr. Tod Allen Farmer, WC president. “Weatherford College is committed to providing our students with expanded educational opportunities in these and other important STEM fields.”
The 40 spots in the program filled almost immediately with students from five area middle schools served by Talent Search, and the college had to start a waiting list.
“Learning to program a robotic arm and the problem-solving skills needed was challenging yet extremely fun,” student James Myers said.
James’ mother, Jennifer Myers, added, “We're very excited our son has the opportunity to attend the robotics program at Weatherford. This program will strengthen his love of science and technology.”
In the near future, students in the program will take field trips to Space Center Houston and participate in other STEM-related events and activities. This will allow them the opportunity to observe and understand first-hand how STEM is utilized and applied in real life, Cregger said. They will also learn more about STEM-related careers.
A workshop will also be conducted at WC Wise County.
“It is important to take STEM to other students who are in more rural areas and who cannot readily attend the workshops at Weatherford College due to distance,” Cregger said. “To make it convenient for parents and students, breakfast and lunch will be provided at all workshops.”
An award ceremony is scheduled for May 30 for students who complete the robotics program.
“The technology of the future is emerging today. We serve our students best when we prepare them to operate in and innovate for that future,” said Mike Endy, WC vice president of academics and student affairs. “I am so proud of the collaboration and caring our people have shown in bringing this opportunity to our community. I can’t wait to see how it changes the lives of those students who get to share the technology and the learning opportunities that will arise in this brave new world.”
Talent Search is a federally-funded TRIO program that provides college access programs to rural students. The Talent Search staff at WC helps students in 16 area schools prepare for and enroll in post-secondary educational institutions.