According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16 percent of high school students are interested in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics career and have a proven proficiency in math and 57 percent of them will lose interest by the time they graduate high school.
Seaside Neighborhood School and Seacoast Collegiate High School are giving their best shot at turning those stats around.
Students in the sixth grade at SNS have the opportunity to join the school's Robotics Club, which offers each of them an opportunity to get involved with STEM in a fun way.
STEM curriculum is based on the idea of educating students in the four specific disciplines in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.
Robotics is a hands-on way for kids to learn STEM concepts through the making of robotics, a branch of technology that deals with the making, programming, and designing of robots.
More than fun and preparing students to enter the workforce though, teacher Chris Eby feels the most important thing students take away from participating in robotics is the teamwork it instills in each one. Eby has led the Robotics Club at Seacoast for two years. He also feels it teaches them the importance of documentation.
"In all walks of life you have to document your work," said Eby.
Jacob Fazio is one student who got involved with robotics at SNS when he was in the sixth grade. He is now a sophomore at Seacoast and president of SCHS's robotics club.
The schools participate in Lego League robotics and BEST Robotics. And this year the high school is taking a big step up to the United State's largest robotics competition, First Robotics.
In the First tech challenge, the school will dive deeper into the aspects of engineering, strategic problem solving, marketing, teamwork, and overall play an inspiring role for the next generations of the schools. At competitions, kids build robots that are judged by an engineering panel. Their first competition is Nov. 18.
"Robotics is an effort to expand the many aspects of the engineering world and its future role in our society," said Fazio. "This is very new. But the engineering field is getting larger, it's growing, and more engineers are needed. We need to have more clubs and competition."
Robotics are part of the culture at SNS starting in sixth grade, and as students move up in school, they become more involved. When Fazio was an eighth grader, the school won at the competition in Pensacola and got to go to Auburn where they won for best middle school. Fazio took third place overall and most robust design.
"That was huge," he said. "My robot was The Prospector because it was about mining. It was perfect and effective."
The Prospector has a home at SNS.
Whether Fazio will go into the engineering field, he said it is definitely an option and interest of his.
But he has not narrowed it down.
"Engineering can be broad," he said. "A lot are going into bio medical engineering dealing with prosthetics or spinal surgery robots. That's cool. I also like marketing. But if robotics makes me this happy, why not keep going?"
Fazio said his parents are super supportive and just want the best thing for him.
The Robotics Club received some support from the county, but students are responsible for raising the rest of the funds to purchase needed supplies. The club is hosting the Haunted Trail Halloween Carnival fundraiser on Oct. 27 and 28. The theme is based around "The Purge" film series. Students are busy now designing and building the set, and organizing volunteers. The Haunted Tail is designed for ages 12 and up. There will also be a trunk or treat for younger family members, and food will be sold. Entrance fee will be $10.