A $30,000 grant from Alcoa Foundation will allow the University of Houston-Victoria to continue to host public events focused on math, computer science and robotics for middle and high school students in the Crossroads.

“The Alcoa Foundation is proud to have a longstanding relationship with UHV and for the impact this institution has on our community,” said Kevin Riggs, site manager for Alcoa Point Comfort Operations. “It is hoped that this contribution enables math and robotics goals at UHV and inspires tomorrow’s technical leaders for local industry.”

The grant funds events and camps, including the annual UHV Math & Robotics Awareness Day, an after-school robotics camp for high school students, and summer math and robotics camps. These programs provide access to advanced math and computer science education to high school students in Victoria and the surrounding counties.

“UHV is grateful to have the opportunity to continue to offer these types of programs for high school students,” said Beverly Tomek, interim dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “Not only do students have the opportunity to learn more about computer programming and robotics, they also have the opportunity to meet UHV faculty members and other professionals in the field.”

Each year, 250 high school students from Victoria, Gonzales, DeWitt, Lavaca, Colorado, Wharton, Jackson, Calhoun, Goliad, Refugio, Aransas, Bee, Karnes and Matagorda counties come to UHV to attend the annual Math and Robotics Awareness Day. The event was canceled last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the next Math and Robotics Awareness Day in April will be a virtual event. After-school classes for high school students also are being held virtually this year, said Amjad Nusayr, assistant professor of computer science and camp director.

“There are hundreds of young students in our area who are interested in math, robotics, artificial intelligence, computer programming and computer science, and UHV is able to encourage them to explore the subjects through these programs,” Nusayr said. “We appreciate Alcoa Foundation for its continuous support so that students can learn more about math and computer science.”

Students at the events also have the opportunity to meet UHV faculty and learn what to expect as a UHV student, said Ricardo Teixeira, associate professor of mathematics and co-coordinator of Math & Robotics Awareness Day.

“We meet high school students at the camps and through the Math & Robotics Awareness Day who decide to attend UHV after they have come to these events,” Teixeira said. “The camps are a great way to learn more about what we have to offer at UHV.”

Joshua Symonds, a UHV junior studying mathematics, attended the Digital Simulation and Robotics Summer Camp for three years while he was a student at Industrial High School. The Lolita native said he enjoyed the opportunity to be able to build a robot and learn more about programming a robot and the design process behind building artificial intelligence. Symonds plans to become a math and computer science teacher after he graduates from UHV.

“These camps are a great way to get students interested in STEM programs because the camps present math and robotics in a way that is fun and not overly complicated,” he said.

Alcoa Foundation has been a supporter of UHV since 1984, said Courtney Middleton-Sides, UHV senior director for corporate and foundation relations.

“Alcoa Foundation and UHV value education in our community, and without the foundation’s funding, we would not be able to reach as many high school students,” Sides said. “We appreciate Alcoa Foundation, and we are excited to continue to bring quality programs to area youth.”

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