Southeast Awarded WIRED Grant to Support Regional High School Robotics Competition

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Aug. 4, 2009 – Southeast Missouri State University has been awarded a $10,446 grant from the WIRED Initiative of the Workforce Investment Board to support teams of area high school students to take part in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), a robotics competition in December in St. Louis.

WIRED and the Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology at Southeast are collaborating on the project in an effort to increase student participation in math, engineering, technology and science (METS) disciplines at schools in this area and “to provide young people with an opportunity to discover the excitement and rewards of science, technology and engineering,” said Dr. Ragu Athinarayanan, chair of the Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology.

Participating schools in counties served by WIRED (Bollinger, Butler, Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, Iron, Madison, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Scott, and Stoddard) will be given a kit of parts – including structural supports, motors, gears, encoders, sensors, joysticks and programmable controllers — to design and build a robot that can accomplish the competition objectives. The competition is designed to engage teams of high school students in a meaningful extracurricular activity that will prepare them to pursue a METS career field when they enter college or develop skills and knowledge they can use in a future career, Athinarayanan said.

“In addition to building technical expertise, this program also helps students hone other workplace skills such as teamwork, meeting deadlines, and trouble-shooting under pressure,” said Janet Witter, WIRED Initiative Manager.

Information sessions about the competition are planned for 10 a.m. to noon

Aug. 11 and 13 at the following locations:• Cape Girardeau, Mo. – Southeast Missouri State University – Seabaugh Polytechnic Building, Room 306 • Park Hills, Mo. – Mineral Area College – Technology Center, Room T-107 • Poplar Bluff, Mo. – Three Rivers Community College/Poplar Bluff TCRC – E.K. Porter Building, Room 203 • Portageville, Mo. – University of Missouri Delta Center – Room 109

Those planning on attending the information sessions are asked to respond by Aug. 7 to Janet Witter, WIRED representative, at (573) 334-0990 or janet@job4you.org, or John Dudley, Southeast representative, at (573) 576-2741 or jdudley@semo.edu.

The First Tech Challenge is administrated by FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — an organization supported by more than 85,000 volunteers and 3,000 corporations. Nearly 1,000 teams participated last year in locations throughout the United States, including St. Louis.

While WIRED is providing most of the financial support for the competition, Southeast will be providing organizational and technical support for the high schools, which includes offering workshops on the robot kits, supporting the formation and development of teams and helping each school identify external project mentors and sponsors, Athinarayanan said.