Motorola Foundation Funds New Robotics Competition

July 12, 2010

A new program funded by the Motorola Foundation will bring together engineering students from Michigan State University with teams of students from underrepresented high schools to learn principles of engineering while designing and building robots for competition. The uG9-12 (undergraduate and 9-12 grades) Robotics Competition-Driven Mentoring Program was selected to receive $60,200 as part of the Innovation Generation grant program from the Motorola Foundation.

The program will help first- and second-year engineering undergraduates develop problem-solving skills using an engineering design process as they design, build, program and test robots for collegiate VEX Robotics competitions. The engineering students will also serve as mentors to VEX Robotics teams in underrepresented and socio-economically challenged high schools in Lansing and Detroit. Through competitions integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the program works to develop and encourage high school students’ interest in these fields.

“What is exciting and unique in this program is its focus on training first- and second-year engineering students to mentor high school students,” said Drew Kim, assistant to the dean for recruitment and K-12 outreach in MSU’s College of Engineering. “It is a service learning opportunity for our students, and it gets the high school kids excited about a future in engineering.”

Since 2005, the Motorola Foundation’s signature Innovation Generation program seeks to boost American students’ engagement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through funding, employee volunteers and intra-grantee collaboration. Building on President Barack Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign and federal initiatives like the Race to the Top Fund, the program provides $7.5 million to K-12 programs across the United States, including MSU, to support hands-on, innovative after-school programs, science and math clubs, teacher training and mentoring programs.

“In the past, a handful of engineering students served as informal mentors to high school students and were invaluable in helping run tournaments. The Motorola Foundation funding allows us to broaden our reach to the Detroit area and develop a more robust mentoring relationship with high school students,” Kim said. “It also allows us to provide support for supplies, so the students aren’t limited by their ability to pay for robotics kits.”

Kim expects to engage about 20 MSU engineering students in the uG9-12 Robotics Competition program, and is focusing on high schools with large enrollments of African American and Hispanic students, as well as an all-girls high school. The MSU student mentors will spend time in Detroit working with the high school students on their VEX Robotics projects. Ultimately, Kim is planning to develop Michigan teams to compete in a 48-team Super-Regional VEX Robotics Competition at MSU in March 2011 that will bring together teams from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

“Engaging youth in STEM fields will be crucial to driving future innovation and keeping America competitive in a global economy,” said Eileen Sweeney, director of the Motorola Foundation. “With the help of these grants, Michigan State University and Motorola can work together to ensure we are adequately building a diverse pipeline of critical thinkers and addressing the most pressing needs around education.”

This is the fourth year that MSU’s College of Engineering has received funding from the Innovation Generation grant program.

Innovation Generation is a part of Motorola’s larger commitment to engaging youth in STEM education. More than just funding, Michigan State University will receive ongoing support from a Motorola employee through the company’s “Innovators” employee volunteer program, which utilizes the expertise of Motorola’s workforce to inspire the next generation of inventors. MSU is also now part of the Innovation Generation network, where it can create vital connections with hundreds of other organizations with the common vision to make a greater impact on STEM education.

Since 2007, more than $20.5 million has been awarded to STEM programs nationwide through Innovation Generation funding. For more information on the grant program, please visit www.motorola.com/giving. For additional information on the MSU College of Engineering, please visit www.egr.msu.edu.

The Motorola Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola. With employees located around the globe, Motorola seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The company achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships, fostering innovation and engaging stakeholders. Motorola Foundation focuses its funding on education, especially science, technology, engineering and math programming. For more information on Motorola Corporate and Foundation giving, visit www.motorola.com/giving.