An explosion in the popularity of high school robotics teams has suddenly made it chic to be geek.
Robotics team members are getting varsity letters and patches, being paraded before school assemblies like other sports stars and seeing trophies in the same lobby display cases as their football, basketball or baseball counterparts. . . .
A telling statistic: For the first time ever, there are more varsity robotics teams than there are boys’ varsity hockey teams in the state. There are 156 high school boys’ hockey teams and 180 robotics teams, up from 153 last year, according to the Minnesota State High School League.
The number of robotics teams in the state is expected to surpass 200 soon, growing from just two in 2006. Tournaments spur teamwork and a sense of competition, particularly valuable for students who may not have a chance to gain that experience through sports.
“Minnesota is becoming a Mecca for robotics,” said Joe Passofaro, one of the mentors/coaches for the Prior Lake High School robotics team, which won the state championship last year. “We’re getting a group here that is coming onto the world scene.”
High school robotics helps lay the groundwork for STEM studies in college.
The University of Minnesota is already starting to see ripple effects. In 2008, two years after the first robotics teams appeared, 12 students with robotics team experience enrolled at the university’s College of Science and Engineering. Last year that number had grown to 76.
Apparently, there is some disagreement on whether we need more STEM graduates:
- Government pushes for training more scientists, but where are the jobs? (Cost of College)
- ‘our nation’s march toward a more technical, STEM type workforce’ (Cost of College)
- The Myth of STEM Labor Shortages (Pope Center for Higher Education Policy)
- America Faces Shortage of Science, Technology Workers (The Business Journal)