NUAMES uses robotics as community outreach

Focused on math, science and engineering, the Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering & Science (NUAMES) on the Weber State University Davis campus has recently decided to expand its horizons.

Throughout the years, robotics has become a big deal at NUAMES.

“I’ve been here for about five years now,” Bryan Rudes, an engineering teacher and robotics mentor for NUAMES students, said. “When I got here, I started the VEX High School level teams here.”

Before Rudes began teaching at the school, a First Robotics team had already been created.

Since then, the NUAMES teams have competed in various competitions and placed in many.

This year, however, they’re trying something a little different.

“One thing we’re really trying to achieve this year is the Chairman’s Award for First Robotics,” said Rudes.

The Chairman’s Award is considered one of the most highly honored awards in robotics. It deals with community outreach and spreading science, technology, engineering and math ideas.

In an effort to spread robotics opportunities, NUAMES has been visiting local elementary schools and offering them the resources to participate in Lego robotics competitions, which could be considered synonymous to the ones NUAMES participates in, except at a younger level.

NUAMES has invested in a few Lego robotics kits, each of which costs approximately $600. They are using these kits to compile a robot “library” which allows local elementary schools to borrow the kits for a year.

“We’ll try to help out teams that haven’t participated before,” Rudes said.

This is the first official year NUAMES has been working on community outreach, although it usually takes three years of such activities for a school to receive the Chairman’s Award.

A few NUAMES students began pilot testing the idea last year.

“We got started doing it last year; we went to one elementary school last year. A couple of our students went over there every day,” Rudes added.

One of these students, Jack Fernald, a  junior, thought it was great seeing them try different things and succeed, although it was difficult to be a teacher.

“Being able to get the kids to figure out ideas on their own instead of just giving them answers is a challenge in and of itself,” Fernald said.

To gather money to purchase the kits for the NUAMES robotics library, Rudes has been writing grants and organizing fundraisers.

The NUAMES clubs do not necessarily act as mentors to the elementary students, but the school still likes to stay updated with their progress. Either Rudes or one of the other three NUAMES engineering teachers plan on going to each competition.

“We’re really going to try to break it up between the four of us just because there’s so many,” Rudes told.

Students who come to NUAMES filter in from approximately 50 different feeder schools, which means current students have connections that cover a substantial portion of northern Utah.

Members of the robotics teams have been getting their younger siblings excited about robotics and coming to NUAMES, while also spreading word to their families and communities.

This could benefit NUAMES because many of the students who choose to participate in elementary robotics programs may eventually enroll at NUAMES, and will already be familiar with the process.

“The entire purpose of all these programs is to get their mind of design moving,” Rudes said. “Once they get that idea moving, they can get more in depth.”