Fairmont State University’s College of Science and Technology and NASA’s Independent Verification & Validation (IV&V) Program Education Resource Center (ERC) continues to provide opportunities to young students, educators and college students within the state of West Virginia. The ERC was introduced more than 20 years ago and since its establishment has expanded in size and scope.
The ERC currently trains educators and students on a variety of science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) activities, classroom kits and competitive robotics. The mission of the ERC is to inspire, educate, engage and employ students in West Virginia, emphasizing support for underrepresented groups in STEM fields.
“A hallmark of a Fairmont State education is our commitment to hands-on learning,” Mirta M. Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said. “And our partnership with the ERC helps us pursue that mission. From robotics to 3D printing and more, students of all ages have countless opportunities to engage in hands-on learning. We’re thrilled with our partnership with the ERC and the experiential learning opportunities they help provide.”
The ongoing partnership continues to support and inspire WV K-12 students through large scale STEM carnivals including, Day in the Park, NASA Day and international robotics tournaments. The program is also impactful by providing trainings on classroom STEM kits to more than 1,000 educators to be utilized in learning environments.
Due to COVID-19, the ERC traditional model of in-person trainings and events was compromised. However, trainings were transitioned to online platforms while the ERC team continued to support the state. During April, May and June, the ERC exceeded the average number of annual trainings, engaging young students through virtual planetarium shows, designing and coding games and direct student mentoring on a range of academic subjects.
The ERC also works closely with the AmeriCorps volunteer program. Despite limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the support for this group did not stall. AmeriCorps provided the ERC with flexibility to continue school outreach by providing robotics kits, small-group instruction and a range of virtual trainings using online platforms.
Additionally, the ERC began managing the FIRST® LEGO® League in WV nine years ago and since then has assumed the management of 13 robotics programs, serving students ranging from in age from five to college students. These initiatives connect students with STEM employers and prepare youth for STEM careers and opportunities to live and thrive in a state they so proudly call home.
“The competitive robotics programs have taken off in West Virginia because I believe it is part of our self-reliant culture to engineer solutions to problems we face,” said Dr. Todd Ensign, ERC Program Manager. “Over the past nine years, Robotics teams alone have increased from 75 to over 500, and competitions now engage well over 5,000 students annually.”
Not only do young students and educators benefit from ERC offerings, Fairmont State students are now eligible to join the new Robotics Club. The club meets every week, and is seeking students to design, build and code competitive robots using tools including 3D printers, a CNC router and a laser cutter. All students are welcome to join, regardless of major or field of study. The only requirements are interest in learning CAD, coding or driving robots. Contact Dr. Todd Ensign, Todd.Ensign@fairmontstate.edu, for further information.