Youth Robotics Programs launch this month following the award of $2.1 million by the Texas Workforce Commission, allowing thousands of Texas high school students to participate in various events. The Youth Robotics Initiative encourages interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by expanding participation in robotics programs. This program removes barriers to participation for students with disabilities through partnerships and collaboration, and teams primarily from schools in underserved urban and rural communities.
This year, four applicants received awards: FIRST in Texas, REC Foundation, Urban STEM, and Collegiate Edu-nation.
“TWC anticipates at least 2.1 million STEM positions in Texas by 2028. Hands-on experience is an essential component to developing STEM job seekers,” said TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel. “TWC youth programs are devoted to cultivating young Texans into well-prepared industry professionals ready to join the Texas workforce.”
FIRST in Texas received $700,000 to serve 5,700 high school students in more than 400 Youth Robotic teams. FIRST in Texas provides dedicated programs for 500 students with disabilities in partnership with Unified Robotics, Texas School for the Deaf (TSD), Special Olympics Texas (SOTX), and national affiliate, FIRST, and the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which has established Competitive Robotics as a fully recognized official UIL Academic program.
“STEM occupations are constantly growing and evolving, just like our Texas youth,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “This opportunity helps young minds develop their skillset, creates pathways towards success in STEM fields, and enhances their professional portfolio – all while having fun in the process.”
REC Foundation was awarded $699,665 to provide STEM education to approximately 2,550 students grades 9 to 12 in Texas while providing them a unique opportunity to participate in programs and competitions using the VEX Robotics platform. The REC Foundation will partner with TSD and SOTX to increase STEM education opportunities to students with disabilities, and with TSD host their first signature high school level competition for all deaf and hard-of-hearing teams. This project will also support existing teams through the Texas UIL State Championship.
Urban STEM (USTEM) was granted $120,506 to provide approximately 2,974 students to participate in youth robotics educational programs, and to support their hosted robotics events, Urban STEM Robotics League (USRL). Their latest competition includes new events such as Aerial Robots, Waterbotics, and Robofest which incorporate drones, and underwater robots.
“We are committed to generating enrichment spaces for STEM fields and expanding the talent pipeline for our Texas employers,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Aaron Demerson. “TWC programs like this Texas Youth Robotics Initiative assist with creating our future workforce, while promoting inclusivity.”
Collegiate Edu-nation (CEN) received $685,000 to partner with nine rural independent school districts (ISD) to establish and support current robotics programs. The nine school districts include Hamlin CISD, Hico ISD, Floydada ISD, Sunray CISD, Spurger ISD, Cumby ISD, Venus ISD, Throckmorton CISD, and Iraan-Sheffield ISD, all in rural Texas areas. The dedicated competition offered through CEN will be designed to include all students including students with disabilities.
Teams that advance to the State Championship for each program will have the opportunity to advance to the World Championship arena. Robotics competitions bring together the excitement of sports, science, and technology