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Robotics STEM initiative helps fund programming education in Lake and Geauga counties

Author: 
Lindsey O'Brien | The News-Herald

After the passage of the biennial state budget, $150,000 will be distributed among Lake and Geauga school districts for middle school programming education, through the Robotics STEM Initiative. The Lake County Educational Service Center will serve as the fiscal agent to distribute funds among middle schools, as well as planning with every school district superintendent. Introduced by state Rep. Ron Young, R-Leroy Township, and state Sen. John Eklund, R-Munson Township, this money will strictly be used to enhance education among middle schools in programming. Young said only 3 percent of schools nationally are teaching programming.  

Lake and Geauga County school districts will now be added among the few schools in the country that do. The Robotics STEM Initiative will allow the purchase of equipment needed to educate middle school students in programming. “Any time we can provide them with an experience that enhances what they’re doing and their learning, that’s an advantage that we can provide everybody,” said Brian Bontempo, superintendent of the Lake County Educational Service Center.  Young explains that manufacturing companies in Lake County are in desperate need of programmers.  “If we don’t find people with these skill sets, these companies will move elsewhere,” Young said. The current image of manufacturing, as Young sees it, is typically a factory with less-than-favorable air quality and, overall, not a glorious career option, but he says that they are trying to change that stereotype. Over the years, he says, manufacturing has evolved into offices that we see every day. 

The point of this initiative, Young and Bontempo stress, is to spark interest among students in the manufacturing career options. “The idea is that once they start to learn a particular skill it will advance as they move through high school and it gives them options for a career and their interests,” Bontempo said. Partnering with the Alliance for Working Together (ATW), a large group of over 80 manufacturing companies in the Lake County area working to promote careers in manufacturing, the initiative will allow students interested in programming to pursue careers straight out of high school. “The goal for me is to help prepare kids so that, on graduation, they can take an entry level position as a programming trainee at one of our ATW companies in the area,” Young said. Some entry level programming positions in manufacturing boast salaries of around $60,000.  “Why not keep our best and brightest in Lake and Geauga counties, right here,” Bontempo said.

http://www.news-herald.com/general-news/20150804/robotics-stem-initiativ...