Science, robots and the students who designed them took center stage Tuesday at the State House as Governor Paul LePage awarded the first ever Governor's Promising STEM Youth Awards.
The recipients included three robotics teams that participated in a national competition, a student who will be representing Maine at the National Youth Science Camp and students from Falmouth who represented the state in a national science competition.
"You will be the people who build our bridges, design our buildings, solve our energy needs, run our computer networks. You're going to be the teachers of the 21st century," LePage told the students. "You are the future of this State."
The event was designed to promote STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and to raise post-high school aspirations for students. Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, who also spoke at the event, said all of the students and programs represented at the State House Tuesday are examples of learner-centered instructional programs that provide multiple pathways for learning.
Three teams brought their robots to the event, and Governor LePage was able to spend time with the students before the ceremony, asking them about their projects and their future plans.
As part of the LePage Administration's education agenda, Governor LePage has emphasized the importance of our students acquiring STEM skills. Experts say these skills are vital in the 21st century and critical to our economic prosperity. Research shows that STEM skills are transferable and needed in every job sector.
Governor LePage presented awards to three robotics teams that participated in the FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis in April:
* "SMART" robotics team from Spruce Mountain High School in RSU 36 (Jay-Livermore Falls);
* "Sunnyside Up" robotics team from the elementary/middle schools in RSU 9, Farmington;
* "Infinite Loop" robotics team from Messalonskee High School, RSU 18, Oakland
Gail Bickford of Maine Robotics, which organizes robotics teams throughout the state, joined the Governor in presenting the awards. Maine had a disproportionately high number of teams qualify for the national competition, a reflection of the growth in popularity and support for the program across the state.
Two other teams -- from Mount Desert Island and from South Portland -- were unable to attend the awards ceremony.
The Governor also recognized Taylor Rogers, of Dixmont. She and Ma Wei Feng of Portland, who could not attend, will participate in the National Youth Science Camp in West Virginia this summer.
The final award of the morning was presented by the Governor and Rich Grich of the Manufacturers Association of Maine to the Real World Design Challenge team from Falmouth High School. The team, "The Paper Planes" competed in April at the national competition in Washington, D.C. In the competition, student teams were asked to address a challenge that confronts the nation's leading industries. Students use professional engineering software to develop solutions and develop presentations to demonstrate the value of their solutions.
The Real World Design Challenge emphasizes partnerships among industry, government, academia and the non-profit sector. The Manufacturers Association co-coordinated this year's challenge with the Maine Department of Education and will be taking it on solo next year. Representatives of Pratt & Whitney, which lends financial support to the program, were also on hand for the event.