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Intelitek and Boy Scouts Partner to Promote STEM Education

  • Using EasyC for the Boy Scouts Programming Merit Badge
  • Students using EasyC to complete Programming Badge

New Robotic Programming Merit Badge generates a groundswell of excitement for STEM!

With the motto “Be Prepared”, Boy Scouts of America are devoted to helping youths become tomorrow’s leaders. Part of that effort includes over 130 Merit Badges that Scouts can earn in topics from business to backpacking. Confirming the trend that new skills are required for success in tomorrow’s world, one of the newest available badges is the Programming badge, preparing boys for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“We view STEM as an essential survival skill in the 21st century.”

“Last century, camping was an essential survival skill,” noted Matt Myers, of the Boy Scouts of America STEM initiative, “We view STEM as an essential survival skill in the 21st century.” The Boy Scouts of America introduced the new badge that allows scouts to learn how programming makes digital devices useful and fun, thus generating more interest in STEM among youths. To earn the badge, scouts write three programs in three programming languages for three different industrial applications, including the web, games, embedded controls, factory automation, and more. This allows the scouts to see how real programming is used in the workplace.

Boy Scouts Programming Badge

At the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, the response to the Programming Badge revealed the untapped interest in STEM fields. Over 800 scouts completed the programming portion of the badge – the only merit badge that had a line of kids waiting to get in all day long! Scouts from 49 of the 50 states and from overseas waited as long as 2 to 3 hours to work on the programming badge, which also has requirements in the areas of Safety, History and Careers. In the booth at the Jamboree scouts programmed VEX robotics arms using Intelitek’s easyC programming software.

This initiative demonstrates the high demand for robotics skills among youths. It also shows the success that can be had when educational opportunities are made available to youths: increased enthusiasm and awareness of opportunities in STEM. These are key to fulfilling students’ potential and opening up new pathways to career and lifelong success!

Learn more about the Programming merit badge!


The Limitless Rewards of STEM Education

The value of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is evident: our future is in its hands. STEM education creates new generations of critical thinkers, scientifically literate individuals, and driven innovators. STEM-related occupations are at the forefront of innovation and technological advancement, and consequently, these jobs are arguably the most closely bound to a country’s economic growth and sustainability. STEM education across the globe is in higher demand now than ever, and it is vital that STEM programs receive the attention and support that they deserve.

Georgetown University STEM report

This point is bolstered by a 2011 study by Georgetown University asserting that there is a growing demand for STEM talent across a platform of all occupations and fields of study, not just the traditional or “native” STEM industries. Technological advances have called for “more skilled” members of every profession, meaning that STEM education is now often necessary for basic competency. In fact, more non-STEM occupations are seeking students who have obtained STEM skills, so the desirability of individuals with solid STEM proficiency is rapidly increasing.

Moreover, the number of STEM jobs continues to grow worldwide. It is projected that the economic share of these occupations will grow to 5 percent, creating more than a million new jobs by the year 2018 in the U.S. alone. Programs that target both the most elite and highest-performing STEM students as well as those whose talents lie less conspicuously in STEM areas are best positioned to meet this growing demand. By establishing broad-reaching solutions that foster interest in STEM occupations we support universal enrichment and advancement. If we commit to this mission, our world is certain to thank us in return.


Survey Points to Growth in STEM Education Budgets!

Congratulations to our prize winners who participated in our recent survey on the state of STEM education in the USA!

  • iPad winner: Mike Weaver
  • iPod winner: Rick Vaughn
  • iTunes winners: Richard Hill, Tammy Wesson

The survey responses point to encouraging trends in STEM education:

45% of respondents expect their budget for STEM programs to increase.

This is great news! Despite challenging times for many states and districts, STEM education is growing. Only 25% responded that their budgets were shrinking. We know that any growth in this sector is only due to the hard work of those supporting and advocating for STEM – teachers, administrators, public officials, as well as student organizations, parents, mentors and volunteers. We salute all of you!

The fastest growing STEM education program is green technology.

Programs related to alternative energy, sustainability, wind, solar and other green economy topics are on the rise, when measured by definite plans to establish new curriculum. This is more good news! The shortage of skilled workers for the critical green economy is well-documented. Now more students will have the opportunity to develop skills and pursue rewarding, sustainable careers thanks to these new programs. We see this as an example of the education community stepping up to the challenge to provide in-demand skills for tomorrow’s world. We may have a ways to go, but we are on our way!

The most important criteria for selecting new equipment for STEM labs is quality of the equipment.

The quality of the lab equipment directly affects the sustainability of a STEM program. Poor quality equipment can undermine the vigorous efforts it takes to get STEM programs off the ground and engage students. High quality equipment can help keep programs thriving and effective. Our survey respondents reflected this fact by consistently rating quality as the most important factor when selecting equipment.

Thanks again to all who took our survey and congratulations to our winners!


VEX World Champion Interview: Joshua Wade

One of the most successful Vex Robotics Competition teams ever has a unique aspect – it has only one member. Joshua Wade, from Orwell, OH, the sole member of Team 1103, went on to become 2010 Vex Robotics Programming Skills Challenge World Champion and the 2011 Vex Robotics National Champion.

What helped Josh become so successful? One of the tools in Joshua’s arsenal was easyC, Intelitek’s intuitive robotic programming software. With it he accomplished some exceptional robotic programming feats. We asked Josh to give us his perspective on his accomplishments.

What got you interested in VEX Robotics?
Even at a very young age, I had an interest in robotics and engineering. In 2006, when I was 12 years old, my Dad bought me an original VEX starter kit for Christmas. I can say without a doubt that it was the best Christmas present I ever received. Over the next few years I received several additional VEX kits and spent a great deal of time programming the hobbyist robots that I designed.

How did you develop your programming skills?
When I was 14, having worked with VEX robots for about a year, I was introduced to programming VEX robots. At that time, programming in general was completely new to me. I found easyC to be very user-friendly and quickly learned how to write basic programs. Though programming always came very naturally to me, I spent a great deal of time working with easyC before I was able to write more advanced programs.

How did you come up with your design? What were some other ideas you had?
Before starting on my 2010-2011 robot, I spent many long hours at the drawing board considering various design concepts. Early on I knew that I wanted a purely-vertical lifting mechanism. I did consider using a scissor
lift but later rejected that idea in favor of the chained linear slide lift that I had thought of following the 2010 VRC World Championships.

Because I was very interested in the two skills challenges, particularly the Programming Skills, a claw seemed like the best choice for actually manipulating the tubes. The inspiration for the passive high hanging mechanism actually came from rock climbing equipment. I needed a hook that would easily attach to the side of the Ladder even if the base of the robot was imperfectly positioned. The idea to tilt the lift mechanism using pneumatic pistons came after seeing a similar tilting mechanism on a forklift.

How much time did you spend working on your robot?
I began building my VEX Round Up robot in August of 2010. Throughout the competition season I worked 30-40 hours a week building, programming and practicing with the robot. By April of 2011, I had logged roughly 1200 hours.

What are your plans for the future?
In college I would like to take mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science. Right now I am considering Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. After college I plan to go into robotics.

As the sole member of one of the most successful VRC teams ever, what advice do you have for other students who participate in the program?
I feel that the most important advice I can give to another is to work hard and be committed. To quote Thomas Edison, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

***
Team 1103 is a great example of the unlimited potential students have when engaged and motivated by their educational environment. Joshua’s success also shows that competitive robotics is an excellent way to provide that environment for more students!


2011 SkillsUSA Recap

This year’s 2011 Skills USA Championship in Kansas City, Missouri, was very
exciting! The students were prepared, they were energized and proved to be
GREAT competitors. This year’s AMT (Automated Manufacturing Technology)
challenge was a five piece game based after the childhood classic Connect-4
game.

SkillsUSA Connect4 project

After drawing the part and generating the CAM (Computer Integrated
Manufacturing) CNC code, they then prepared blank stock and made the parts.
This year’s challenge included the 5 part assembly. Those students who finished
the 5 parts, turned them in and got a change order for the top (the sixth
part).

In talking with one of the teams, I learned they competed last year and were
coming back for medals this year. This team event tests the skills these
students have under pressure while competing with the best in the nation. These
student’s have the right stuff! They are going to work and on for more
schooling to keep America competitive. For those who haven’t been to a National
Skills Leadership Competition (NSLC), seeing is believing. Pictures are good
but do yourself a favor, get there. There are over 18 acres of competitions on
just one of the floors with students competing on skills challenges from
Carpentry, Household Wiring, Masonry, to Cosmetology, Nail Care, Culinary Arts,
Automotive Body Repair, Robotics and Automation and Automated Manufacturing.
These are the skills that keep America moving!

Intelitek was the primary industry sponsor at this year’s Robotics and
Automation competition at the NLSC, providing 11 ER 4u robotic workcells for
students to compete with over a two day period. “This two person team
competition is exciting for us to host”, says David Crowell, Regional Sales
Manager for Intelitek and National Chairman of the Robotics and Automation
Competition. This competition tests the students ability to design, layout,
wire, program and prove the best solution for a workcell project. This year the
teams implemented the use of a pallet system to move parts around the workcell.
Teams were interviewed and had to present to a technical committee their
designs. This was done in a design review process and we were assisted by teams
of engineers from Honeywell who are based in Kansas City.

For more information about SkillsUSA, please visit www.skillsusa.org


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