Lego Robotics Competition Fights STEM Shortage - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

Lego Robotics Competition Fights STEM Shortage

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The number of American students choosing "STEM" fields -  those in science, technology, engineering, and math - is dropping sharply.

Penn State Behrend fought that trend with fun, drawing more than 400 students to a lego robotics competition on Saturday. More than 40 teams of 4th-8th graders built these robots for the fourth annual "First Lego League" robotics competition at PSB.

"We've been working on this since the day the project came out (in August), and we've been in our rooms practicing two to three nights per week for hours," said Morgan Schnars, a 7th grader at Iroquois Middle School. 

The students were required to program the robots to perform tasks in response to a natural disaster.
"It's really great for the kids to see that engineering its not just about building something. It's about everyday life and what we do," said Melanie Ford, lecturer in computer science and director of PSB's engineering outreach center.

PSB hopes that the competition and fun will spark students' interest in STEM fields.

"I definitely know based on mostly this (competition) that if I were to go down the engineering road for my career, I would have a blast, and it would be just as much fun as it looks," said Colin Baxter, an 8th grader at Iroquois.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that STEM jobs will grow twice as quickly as jobs in other fields. However, only 16 percent of college grads are in STEM fields.

"With the baby boomers retiring and number of technology-focused jobs opening up, we can't graduate enough students. So it's very important to get these kids interested," Ford said.

"I think a lot of kids think that math and science kids just sit and class and do work on paper and pencil. But when you're out here actually doing work like this, it's a great way to open doors for the future," Schnars said.

The team with the best score advances to the First Lego League world festival in Saint Louis in April.

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