The success of these initiatives can be seen in examples such as the robotics programs of Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs and North Atlanta High School in Buckhead.
Both high schools have been able to establish award-winning robotics teams in recent years as part of their efforts to improve in science and mathematics. Despite the success the teams have already experienced, both regard the 2012-13 school year as an opportunity for further improvement and expansion.
Physics teacher Rama Balachandran established the Riverwood robotics team in 2006 to combat the lack of science programs at the school.
“I started the robotics team because there was nothing available for students interested in science, hands-on building and engineering,” Balachandran said.
So far the team has won a series of titles including the DeVry University Award Georgia Championship Tournament in 2007, World Championship Winning Alliance Award in 2008 and Georgia Championship Tournament Motivate Award Winning Alliance Award in 2009.
For the RoboRaiders, as the Riverwood robotics team is known, the goal for the upcoming school year is to focus on preparing themselves to enter into higher levels of competitions. Currently, the team competes in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Technical Challenge, a competition where the robots compete head-to-head.
The team hopes in the near future, though, to enter into the FIRST Robotics Competition, which requires robots to perform prescribed tasks rather than combat other robots. The competition not only requires a higher level of technological knowledge, it also introduces stricter rules, limited resources and time limits.
In order to prepare for these increased challenges, the RoboRaiders hope to partner with cooperate sponsors who would be willing to provide field mentors to help the team perfect its designs as well as provide financial support.
The North Atlanta robotics team is also looking to expand this school year, with plans to widen its range by incorporating a technology aspect to the team. In addition to competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition, newly established teacher-mentor Lori McCall said she hopes to have the students enter in the annual Georgia Educational Technology Fair.
“I want to encourage the kids to work on various projects relating to technology and anything else that interests them,” she said.
The team also hopes to further its success in competition. In 2010, the team’s inaugural year, it won the Peachtree Region Rookie All-Star award. As it continues to gain more experience in competition, the team hopes to transfer this early success into victories at regional level tournaments and beyond.
The robotics team also has already established plans for fundraisers to help support its activities. Every first Friday night of the month, the team will be hosting science activities for younger students in order to raise money.
The robotics teams provide strong examples of what is possible when students are presented with opportunities to explore their interests in science, engineering, technology and math.
“We need to graduate kids from our schools that have the ability to get the jobs of the future. The main idea is trying to expose them to the fun and interesting parts of STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] so that they will be interested in pursuing it,” Irene Schweiger, executive director of the Sandy Springs Education Force, said.