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The robots are coming! Hundreds of Indiana elementary schools get funds to teach science and math through robotics

Providence Cristo Rey High School's robotics team competes in the VEX tournament Sunday. The goal of the challenge is to stack cubes on the gray goalposts or build towers in the arena.
Providence Cristo Rey High School's robotics team competes in the VEX tournament Sunday. The goal of the challenge is to stack cubes on the gray goalposts or build towers in the arena.
Shaina Cavazos

A new statewide initiative will jumpstart robotics programs in 400 Indiana elementary schools.

The participating schools will share $290,000 from Guggenheim Life and Annuity, an investment firm with headquarters in Indianapolis, to train teachers in robotics instruction.

The money will also pay for robotics starter kits including electronics, gears and other parts for fourth and fifth graders as well as funds to register school teams for robotics competitions.

The grants are administered by TechPoint Foundation for Youth, a nonprofit that helps Indianapolis schools boost their science and math programs.

The statewide robotics initiative was announced by Governor Mike Pence in April and will be supported by the Department of Workforce Development.

It was inspired by the City of Indianapolis’ VEX Robotics Championship program, which was established by former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard in 2013 and includes an annual robotics competition for students.

“Indiana has the nation’s first statewide elementary school robotics program,” Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Steve Braun said in a statement. “The program will inspire the next generation of Hoosier innovators to explore STEM careers, which are vital to the future of our state and workforce.”

The statewide program comes as various state agencies work to improve the future of Indiana’s workforce and expand offerings in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Over 200 schools have already been awarded grants, and teachers have received kits and were trained by TechPoint staff members on how to incorporate robotics into their classrooms. Over 160 student teams took part in this year’s IndyVRC competition in January. Teachers can apply for a grant for their school through TechPoint’s website.

“Because of the type of competition it is, students are not only learning STEM,” Ballard said. “But they are also learning a lot of soft skills such as teamwork and collaboration.”

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