Robotics camp brings fun STEM education to underserved kids

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Lipscomb/Nissan BisonBots Robotics Camp brings robotics, fun and much-needed STEM education to Nashville’s underserved children

This year’s Lipscomb University/Nissan BisonBot Robotics Camps are doing more than introducing 124 youngsters to engineering through exciting robots, games and activities. They are bringing valuable STEM education to underserved students who would not normally get a change to enhance their science skills over the summer.

“Underserved students may not have the financial means to find additional enrichment activity during the summer,” said Ginger Reasonover, co-director of the BisonBot camps. “They also may not have the ability to stay after school and do extra work due to transportation or scheduling problems with their parents’ work schedules.”

Lipscomb recruits underrepresented students for the BisonBot camps through a number of avenues, including the Community Foundation of Tennessee, the NASA SEMAA (Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Engineering) program at Tennessee State University, and this year, through the Martha O’Bryan Center.

Twelve students from Cayce Place, a low-income public housing community in Nashville, were selected by the Martha O’Bryan Center and given scholarships and transportation to attend these summer camps. Six are attending the Junior BisonBots camp, for ages 8-11, today through June 6, and six are attending the Fundamentals camp, for ages 10-14, June 9-13.

The Lipscomb/Nissan robotics camps give students a summer boost of STEM education through building their own robot hands and doodling robots, working with circuit boards, batteries and switches, and playing games designed to instill engineering concepts. As the primary sponsor of the camps, Nissan is scheduled to send out an engineer on Friday to talk about engineering and to show off a Nissan Leaf. The fundamentals campers will take a field trip to Nissan’s Smyrna plant next week.

“What Lipscomb is doing is giving students opportunities to be creative, to think outside the box, to work together in teams. I can’t think of many better examples of how to do STEM and scientific thinking than the robotics programs Lipscomb has been doing for years,” said Vicki Metzgar, director of the Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub.

“We all know that children, no matter where they are learning, have a summer learning loss. Our job is always to be looking for opportunities where we can bring new ideas and programs in, especially during the summer,” said Christine Jackson, chief program officer at Martha O’Bryan, whose grandson attended Junior BisonBots last year. “We want all of our children to find their passion, their talent. We’re hoping there will be some future engineers in the group or some kids who realize that science is a love they didn’t know they had.”

Since 2010, Nissan has donated approximately $300,000 to help stage Lipscomb’s four robotics camps held each summer as well as the annual Music City BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) competition. Due to this funding, Lipscomb’s Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering has been able to expand the summer camps from serving about a dozen students seven years ago to more than 120 students this summer.

“We live in a technology-based world, so giving children tools to help them understand science and math concepts is vitally important,” said Vicki Smith, Nissan senior manager of corporate social responsibility. “Nissan is committed to supporting education, and innovative programs such as the robotics camps and competitions we sponsor may help to launch a new generation of engineers, scientists and problem solvers.