BLOOMFIELD HILLS — The auto supplier Meritor Inc. says it has given the Academy of the Sacred Heart a $10,000 grant to enhance the school’s robotics curriculum.
In 2013-2014, the school introduced a robotics requirement for all ninth-graders in its Upper School for Girls, providing the students with an early exposure to engineering and programming. At the time of the program’s launch, an average of four students worked on a single robot. Using the grant from Meritor, the school purchased 11 Vex robotic kits, which improved the student-to-robot ratio to 2 to 1.
“This grant means that students can take ownership of their learning in a much more powerful way,” said Andrew Baran, the lead instructor for the robotics program. “Now each student can be building and programming, instead of having to wait for her turn. The additional kits also mean we can implement a more challenging curriculum and move at a faster pace.”
In fact, the timing of the grant was not only fortunate for the school’s 41 ninth-graders, but for upper-level students as well. The program expanded to include a longer, intermediate course for juniors and seniors, which provides an introduction to robotics, along with opportunities to tackle more complex coding, design their own robots and make use of additional sensors.
Ultimately, Baran says he hopes to implement an advanced robotics course, which would include participation in local and state competitions.
“The excitement and demand seems to be here,” he said, noting that exposure to these concepts as a high school freshman can start students on a career path that is in high demand. “Students aren’t just learning engineering or programming in these courses. They are learning to think differently, developing tenacity and building momentum in a field where women are generally underrepresented.”
Added Krista Sohm, vice president of marketing and communications at Meritor: “Making learning interactive helps young women appreciate how STEM touches everyday life and it ignites the drive to pursue a rewarding STEM-related career. Hands-on programs help create a foundation for the next generation of scientists and engineers who will continue to lead our industry forward.”
The Academy of the Sacred Heart, founded in 1851, is Michigan’s oldest independent school. It offers Catholic college preparatory education to girls in grades pre-K to 12, and boys pre-K to 8. More at www.ashmi.org.