Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. Collectively called STEM, these words may not immediately captivate your attention. But when attached to people and super-cool things, they morph into dreams, innovation, and down-right fun for our students and educators.

Take projects such as “SPRKing Creativity and Innovation.” This robotics grant was written by Cheyenne Bowen and funded by the Victoria ISD Education Foundation for $4,993 to benefit gifted and talented students during the 2020-2021 school year — a project aimed to develop students’ engineering skills in preparation as 21st-century learners.

Because of Bowen’s initiative to apply for (and subsequently win), her students could face real-world problems head-on with the technology that would take them there. The journey began with the Sphero robot and online tools to code these clear, spherical beauties — a labor of love “where students felt they were (more like) playing,” Bowen adds. On a deeper level, though, kids were learning math, engineering, and even art skills, not to mention how to handle a challenge. While simultaneously remaining focused on not “hitting a wall,” both literally and figuratively, as robots were programmed to weave in and out of maze challenges among other projects.

Bowen describes that if they were to replicate the project, “they would plan for a larger number of Sphero bots as each campus had to share their set.” She further extends “gratitude to each and every donor who has made this possible. By donating to the VISD Education Foundation, you are making projects like this possible, and our students love school more and more each day.”

To build upon Bowen’s sentiments, contributing to the Foundation is an investment into our future leaders and the present lives of educators, such as herself, who then place such technology, tools, and — who some may say, toys — into the hands of students to imagine, plan, and create. In addition, and as a financial bonus, these bots have a sustainable component by being a tangible technology unit that extends the impact to even more students from year to year.

So, as we navigate the corners and straightaways of STEM education and our school children’s future—the American workforce, let’s stand together in support of their unique pathway to success. Won’t you join me? Amazing things are happening.

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Robin Harkey serves as the executive director of the VISD Education Foundation.

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