Inventure Engineering on Why Promoting STEM & Supporting Robotics for Youth is a No-Brainer
The future will be shaped by the hands and the intellect of our youth. Education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are critical in ensuring the growth of the next generation of future innovators, and all those that follow. Recognizing that STEM allows youth to engage in the constantly changing technology and innovation careers of tomorrow, and the important role STEM plays in a well-rounded education, there has been increased commitment from educators and leaders for the support and development of STEM education programs.
These programs help to develop a lifelong interest in STEM and broaden the avenues for youth to someday become society’s next key thinkers, inventors, engineers and scientists. The key is sparking an early curiosity in STEM fields through targeted programming activities for youth. One ongoing example of this is the number of youth robotics teams that have formed around the world. Kids as young as six years of age are receiving professional engineering and design support as they build robots to compete internationally; community mentorship and financial support being integral to their success.
One such supporter is Inventure Engineering, a Barrie-based company that designs and builds customized machinery for oil & gas, automotive, wire & cable and electrical energy sectors worldwide. A couple of years ago, they were approached by a local youth robotics team seeking support from the business community. Without hesitation Inventure jumped on board to become a sponsor of the Cybergnomes. Paul Wagner from Inventure Engineering explained the company’s unwritten mandate:
“We want to expose youth to engineering, design, fabrication – all of the things we do here – in the hope that it might trigger something. An area of interest, or bring out a passion they didn’t even realize they had. If we can get them involved, at whatever step of the process, and give them hands on exposure to it, they may find it’s something they want to do.
If we can provide that opportunity to them, that’s where we feel we can support youth in finding a career path that is going to be lucrative and successful for them, because they have an interest in it. If you have an interest in something, chances are you are going to do well.”
The Cybergnomes, Team #2013 are Simcoe County’s “FIRST” robotics team and since their launch they’ve made a steady ascension to the top of the regional and world standings. This includes recently winning the Western Canada Robotics Regional event and making it to the quarter finals among thousands of competitors at the recent FIRST World Championships where over 800 teams from across the globe competed for the world champion title. That’s over 25,000 future innovators.
In addition to financial support, Inventure provides an in-house, field-sized practice facility and access to anything the team needs, ranging from power tools to engineering advice. Inventure built a full-scale mockup of the competition’s playing field, including a tower with portals to shoot balls through, and all of the defenses they would be required to navigate. There is no doubt that access to this training facility was fundamental to the Cybergnomes’ international success.
Following in the footsteps of the Cybergnomes is a VEX robotics team, the Barrie Techno Tigers. The Tigers, set to begin in Barrie this September, will have their members learn Computer Aided Design (CAD), Solid Works (the main manufacturing software), Engineering principles & applications, basic electrical skills, computer programming and, most of all, teamwork.
The front of the building unit provided by Inventure will be converted into a robot construction and practice space, which will also include meeting rooms and offices. Suffice to say, whatever the Tigers require to succeed, Inventure will do their best to provide it.
“We’ve given them carte blanche for anything we have here – if they need anything built or fabricated, if they need nuts, bolts, and bits and pieces, if they need engineering and design support, controls for robotic function… we have all that capability and expertise in house.
It goes back to our unwritten mandate that we have to promote exposure to youth for different skill sets that may benefit them as a career. At 10 years of age you are still fairly impressionable; to gain that kind of exposure could be a huge benefit to them, if they find this is something they want to do.”
But for Inventure Engineering, the support goes deeper.
“It puts a smile on the face of everyone here. When the team is competing we have laptops set up live streaming their games. You have a bunch of people here cheering on a bunch of high school students, it was fun.
You get that warm and fuzzy feeling, you really do. It’s really kind of cool to be partnered with an initiative like that. And to see them do so well, it makes you feel good. It’s one of those nice things we were able to do relatively easily.”
Jane is Editor-in-Chief and writer for Sunday Crush. She lives in Barrie, ON.