Robotics Broadens Access to STEM Careers in Central Louisiana
September 20, 2022
Building Pathways to STEM for All Students
“In my 26 years as a teacher, this has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” said Ashley Beaubouef of J.I. Barron Elementary in Pineville, Louisiana, as she stood surrounded by her own and other students on the LSU Alexandria campus last spring as the robots they’d built picked up balls and threw them, mostly successfully, into goals.
This is J.I. Barron’s third year doing robotics with LSUA as a mentor. As the COVID-19 pandemic challenged hands-on instruction in Louisiana schools, LSUA expanded its mentorship role to keep students engaged in robotics, including at schools unable to afford or organize their own programs. Hosting three state championships in 2021 and four in 2022, LSUA welcomed 64 and 108 teams, respectively, from across the state.
“Our first year, we started with two teams of our own, but had to bump it to four teams with students from the community because so many schools said, ‘We can’t have teams this year, can you take ours?’” said LSUA Assistant Professor of Computer Science Tanya Lueder. “We try to help all schools and offer training and mentorship to teachers who are interested in becoming robotics coaches and in leading their own teams.”
For many young learners, robotics is their first experience with advanced engineering. It is also a precursor to AI since it’s about training machines to make independent decisions and complete tasks.
“The hands-on learning opportunities that LSUA Robotics has created for our local students are remarkable. These programs allow children greater access to the ever-changing world of STEM and build a better future for the students in our area.”
Sarah Sasser, director of talent management at Crest Industries in Pineville, Louisiana