The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 23, 2013

WVSU program teaches robotics


— Local students are receiving hands-on education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through a new partnership between West Virginia State University (WVSU) and Raleigh County Schools.

This fall students in grades K-8 are learning the science of robotics through a NASA-approved curriculum.

“We’re excited to work with Raleigh County Schools to engage, inspire and educate students in the STEM fields,” said Crystal Bishop, STEM education coordinator at WVSU. Bishop trained teachers in the NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) curriculum and distributed robotics kits and laptops enabling students in the county’s gifted program to receive in-class science instruction.

Launched earlier this month, instructors are already seeing the program’s impact.

“This is the first time these students have been involved in this type of activity, and they’re really eager and enjoying the hands-on, exploratory nature of it,” said Dottie Bowman of Stratton Elementary in Beckley.

“We’re seeing a 100 percent success rate in students’ ability to perform the experiments and a notable increase in science interest between the pre- and post-test results,” she added.

Bowman, who manages the Stratton Elementary Gifted Center, said female students, who previously had little interest in math and science, have shown an increased interest in STEM learning after participating in the robotics experiment.

As part of the classroom instruction associated with the program, students visit WVSU’s Aerospace Education Laboratory (AEL) in Beckley. The facility is the headquarters for the University’s NASA SEMAA program and is equipped with computers, a flight simulator, a wind tunnel and robotics equipment.

Increased focus on STEM education is a nationwide trend, as workforce needs are predicted to outnumber qualified prospective employees in the coming years. To help meet this need, WVSU has opened AEL sites in Raleigh and Kanawha counties through its Center for the Advancement of STEM. These sites offer supplemental STEM instruction to youth in grades K-12 through field trips, summer camps and weekend activities.

The WVSU Aerospace Education Laboratory is on Gray Flats Road in Beckley.