Expanding school robotics program gets donation from SRNS

North Augusta High teacher and Clarke and Concordia founder Jane Monroe shows off a robot built by one of her high school teams.

Wires run like nerves across robotic appendages, sending programmed responses from a central processing unit to overcome obstacles and navigate challenges – and it was all built by the hands of local students.

 

Clarke and Concordia Engineering and Technology has created a growing network of robotics clubs at schools in the Augusta-Aiken area, from elementary through high school. The nonprofit supports the programs to encourage studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the STEM subjects.

The organization has been building momentum since it was founded by North Augusta High School teacher Jane Monroe last year, and recently it got a boost of confidence from Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

That boost was a $28,000 donation to fund Monroe’s vision as the program expands. The nonprofit organization was founded last year with four teams from North Augusta High School. Now, there are 16 teams spread across the Augusta area, including those from Augusta Christian and Sue Reynolds e schools.

Monroe said the program works with local engineers who volunteer to coach teams at the schools.

“This is not state-funded, so the hardest thing to do is raise money and recruit engineers,” she said. “I’m using my experience from building the four teams at North Augusta High to help all the rest of the schools.”

Monroe said she didn’t want to limit her efforts to Aiken County schools because the cities are connected.

“The entire area needs something like this,” she said. “We have engineers that come to work with the kids from Textron in Augusta. We have 142 public schools in the area and I wanted to put a robotics team at all levels in those schools.”

Monroe said that most of the engineers who coach the teams come from Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and Textron but that she is hoping to work with Plant Vogtle and other institutions throughout the area.

“The goal as an organization is to create a workforce pipeline from kindergarten through high school going into STEM careers,” she said. “The students will already have established relationships with area companies from working with those engineers, and they will want to come back here.”

Monroe said working with educational institutes such as Augusta University and the University of South Carolina Aiken is on the to-do list. She hopes to establish connections to help college students in STEM areas complete internships that will not only help the robotics students but also provide experience to the college students.

The SRNS donation brought the Clarke and Concordia fundraising total to about $40,000 for the organization’s first year. In March, the kindergarten-through-third-grade showcase will be held at USC Aiken.

Other upcoming events include competition for the Sumo Bot League at The Clubhouse in Augusta and the South Carolina State Robotics Competition in Gaffney .

For more information on Clarke and Concordia or to volunteer with the program, visit www.cceti.com. The organization is planning a large robotics expo in May, but dates have not yet been confirmed.

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