The Desert Research Institute (DRI), UNLV, and the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) are partnering with Tesla to help Nevada’s teachers go from curious to confident in coaching robotics programs.
The Robotics Academy of Nevada – a new statewide professional development program funded by Tesla’s K-12 Education Investment Fund – will launch this summer, facilitated by DRI’s PreK-12 STEM education and outreach program, Science Alive, in partnership with the Colleges of Engineering at UNLV and UNR.
The Academy is comprised of two weeklong teacher trainings to help 200 middle and high school teachers learn to coach robotics programs at their schools. Participating teachers will also receive mentor support throughout the year. UNLV’s academy is scheduled for May 28-June 1 and will be led by faculty and students from the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, College of Education, and Lee Business School.
“We are very excited to be given the opportunity to help create this new Academy to directly support Nevada’s teachers,” said Amelia Gulling, Science Alive STEM Education Director at DRI. “The primary highlight of this statewide initiative has been the collaborative partnerships that have been developed with our fellow NSHE institutions, robotics competition programs, and school districts.”
The Academy will introduce engineering and robotics content into the existing curriculum across Nevada. Sessions include an introduction to engineering processes, careers, methodologies for integration, and an implementation of competitive robotics and computer programming. Teachers will be also introduced to other robotics coaches and a network of mentors, both inside and outside of the universities, with whom they can work year-round.
DRI’s Science Alive program is working with FIRST Nevada and the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation (REC Foundation) in a shared vision to bring a quality robotics program to every school in Nevada over the next four years.
“Tesla and DRI understand that Nevada needs a highly skilled, STEM-ready workforce,” said Brendan O’Toole, chair of UNLV’s mechanical engineering department and UNLV lead on the project. “As a longtime FIRST Robotics mentor and coach, I’ve experienced first-hand how robotics programs prepare students to solve challenging problems and strengthen the school-to-STEM-career pipeline by inspiring students to explore science, engineering and technology options.”
The funding of the Robotics Academy of Nevada is part of Tesla’s $37.5 million investment in K-12 education in Nevada aimed at programs that encourage students of all backgrounds to consider a career in STEM or sustainability. Tesla began rolling out the education investment in 2018 and will carry it out over five years.
“The most widely-utilized system for encouraging students to participate in robotics-related activities are competition leagues, FIRST Robotics leagues for example,” said David Feil-Seifer, project lead for UNR and assistant professor of computer science and engineering. “We will organize a Northern Nevada Robotics Competition Workshop, which will be open to stakeholders of such a program, such as league administrators, school personnel, parents, University personnel and members of the private innovation community as a hands-on zero-to-competition experience.”
Trainings will be completely free to educators, and all educators will receive a stipend and continuing education credits. Participants who are non-local will also have accommodations covered.
Trainings will be hosted in both Las Vegas and Reno early this summer:
- Las Vegas: May 28-June 1 at UNLV
- Reno: June 17-21 at UNR
Recruiting for participation in the Robotics Academy of Nevada is open now, and interested teachers can apply at sciencealive.dri.edu/robotics.