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Robotics students get boost following $2.3M grant from Texas Workforce Commission

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A new multi-million dollar grant is giving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students across the state a little extra help this year. The Texas Workforce Commission recently gave $2.5 million in grants to various STEM programs in Texas.

“It’s probably been the largest amount we’ve given out,” said Albert Trevino III, Commissioner Representing Labor for the Texas Workforce Commission.

The money goes to programs like FIRST in Texas, a UIL robotics competition for pre-kindergarten through high school students. The program received $700,000 as part of the grant. This is the eighth year they have been given money by the TWC.

“This funding is very instrumental in making sure that we have a level playing field in our robotics program as far as those underserved teams versus our affluent teams,” FIRST in Texas’ Executive Director Jason Arms said.

“It’s a win-win for the state,” Trevino said. “The students are getting to learn this high-in-demand field and the employers are having that pool that they can pull from and keep the Texas economy as strong as it is.”

Robotics programs and the Texas economy

According to the TWC, jobs in STEM industries will dominate in the next ten years. They estimate that over 200,000 new jobs in Texas will be in a STEM field.

“We’re proud that a lot of our kids leave high school and they’re ready to go for industry, or they’re ready to go for a four-year degree or for some sort of trade school,” Arms said.

FIRST in Texas uses the funds provided by TWC to supplement travel and pay for competitions for the more than 30,000 kids they service.

FIRST in Texas operates UIL robotics programs across the state. They recently received a $700k grant from the TWC. (Credit: FIRST in Texas)

“It allows us to give grants specifically to school districts and teams that are interested in starting programs that allow them to pay registration fees and to buy equipment,” Arms said.

“They can get a big variety of students that probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to be involved in STEM,” Trevino said.

Many of the students FIRST in Texas helps out are in rural or underserved communities. While teaching them about robotics is important, Arms said that they also teach about budgeting and presenting to managers, essential skills for the workforce.

“With a program such as ours, it’s not just the competition, it’s just not demonstrating your technical skills. By the time you make it to our state and World Championship, you are a well-rounded individual ready for the job market,” Arms said.

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