Tuesday 9 October 2012

Enhancing interest in science & technology among youth!

The Automation Federation (AF) and its founding sponsor, the International Society of Automation (ISA), continue to build on their partnership with FIRST® to strengthen math and science teaching in K-12 education, and inspire and support a new generation of technology innovators.

Earlier this year, Marcus Rasco, a senior professor in electronics at DeVry University in Texas (USA), and the president of ISA’s North Texas Section, served as a judge at the Dallas East Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, at the Dallas Convention Center.

Two years ago, the AF and ISA entered into a formal partnership with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to promote the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and motivate young students toward careers in automation and engineering. As part of this alliance, AF and ISA members around the world are highly encouraged to participate in FIRST initiatives in their local communities.

“Participating as a judge in this competition enabled me to gain a first-row seat to the inventiveness, creativity and scientific aptitude of many of our young people,” Rasco said. “It was a great experience and it drove home the importance of continuing to help and encourage young people develop their technological skills and capabilities.”

For years, Rasco has been actively involved with school districts in northern Texas to place a greater emphasis science and technology instruction. He has helped conduct numerous robotics, electronics and biomedical-related workshops at middle schools, high schools and on the DeVry University campus.

One of the challenges that these students face is the high start-up costs for a robotic kit. Upon Rasco’s recommendation, ISA’s North Texas Section approved a donation to one local school, the Jack E. Singley Academy, to help defray the costs of a robotic kit. In addition, he contacted representatives at five other professional engineering societies in Texas, urging them to become involved through either donations or mentoring initiatives.

“Marcus Rasco’s initiative is emblematic of the type of grassroots involvement and mentorship that we envisioned when the AF and ISA decided to partner with FIRST,” says Mike Marlowe, AF director. “Our organizations have a common goal to increase the awareness of automation and engineering education around the world. As industry professionals, we’re in the ideal positions to enrich the lives of young people and open their eyes to exciting career pathways in automation.”

Dean Kamen, FIRST® founder and chief executive officer at DEKA Research and Development, emphasises that “bringing students together with engaged, accomplished engineering and automation professionals helps stimulate interest in STEM course work, which is essential for America to remain competitive in the fields of automation and technology.”

FIRST is a not-for-profit organization formed in 1989 to attract young people to career opportunities in STEM. Each year FIRST offers young people from ages six to 18 the opportunity to participate in an international robotics competition and celebration where teams win recognition, gain self-confidence, develop people and life skills, make new friends, and perhaps discover an unforeseen career path.

AF seeks to serve as a catalyst for cultivating the next wave of automation professionals. The AF and ISA have developed initial work plans with FIRST to recruit new volunteers, mentors, and sponsors, establish new teams, and promote the work of FIRST through ongoing workforce development initiatives.

All across the U.S., business, engineering and educational leaders are forming partnerships to improve the quantity and quality of engineers and engineering technologists graduating from America’s educational system.

Many experts say that the lack of emphasis on science and math learning in our public schools is causing the U.S. to lose its edge in innovation and eroding its capacity to create new scientific and technological breakthroughs. If this trend continues, they say, America’s long-term economic growth, standard of living and national security could be undermined.

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