NMT Lands $50,000 Grant For Robotics, Outreach

NMT Lands $50,000 Grant For Robotics, Outreach
Grant from national nonprofit will boost inclusion and diversity in local community


FIRST Jr. Lego LeagueSOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech and the 3rd Phase Foundation have received a $50,000 grant from the national STEM advocacy nonprofit FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

The FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant will increase access to FIRST programs for underrepresented and underserved students, and help Socorro County develop new and innovative approaches to address equity, inclusion and diversity inequalities in STEM (science, technology, education, and math) fields.

Dr. Sharon Sessions of the Physics Department said the grant will allow the university to greatly expand its educational outreach in Socorro County, specifically math, computer science and robotics. Beginning this fall, Tech professors and students will work together with representatives of NRAO and Aerojet, parents, retirees and other local volunteers to  hold after-school workshops that focus on Lego League robotics. Sessions said the project is expected to serve 140 local students and will support about 12 Tech students to serve as mentors and coaches. 

Sessions said all three school districts in the county will be involved – Socorro, Magdalena and Alamo Navajo. Tech will also coordinate a week-long summer camp for youngsters interested in robotics. The grant also covers general outreach activities, such as the Math and Science Night held annually at Sarracino Middle School.

The partnership's focus will be to create 15 FIRST Lego League Junior (FLLjr), 10 FIRST Lego League (FLL), and five FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams in the next year.

"Given the demand for STEM graduates, and the fact that diversity has been shown to contribute to more innovative (smarter) group work, we can't afford to allow these inequities to continue in our education system," said Peter Mozley, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at New Mexico Tech.

FIRST launched the STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants this year to ensure more students and communities are exposed to creative problem-solving and hands-on learning opportunities, regardless of economic or social backgrounds. Applications were evaluated based on alignment with FIRST in its goal of increasing diversity; demographics affected; community need; execution strength; track record of serving targeted students; and the value of proposed activities.

Tech students interested in working in this program should contact Jim Jackson at the NRAO at jjackson@nrao.edu or (575) 835-7132.

The 3rd Phase Foundation is a new Socorro-based non-profit dedicated to the advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) programs in Socorro County. Inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST has championed Lego Robotics competitions across the nation as one of many programs aimed to encourage children to develop an interested in STEM fields.


Click HERE for the FIRST® press release announcing all of the 2016 grant winners.


– NMT –