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The launching pad for all of Brazos Robotics mentor based programs

About Us

Brazos Robotics is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 organizational whose aim is to foster technical mentoring relationships that inspire youth to appreciate STEM opportunities. We began solely focused on the BEST Robotics competition. But, we have expanded program initiatives far beyond the BEST model. Now we have year round opportunities for students to nurture their STEM curiosities. Opportunities include: our year-round robotics competition, STEP; weekly robot club, BotClub; BotClub summer camps; Mobile Education Unit targeting elementary students; online Journal of Educational Robotics to host student publications; and evening classes/workshops.

 


History

Investing in the STEM pipeline isn’t a new idea for us. We have been hosting youth robotics competition in the Brazos Valley since 1996. As a competition organizer, we see 12-20 schools each year representing thousands of students over the years. Many of our students have pursued STEM in college. Others have used the experience to better prepare themselves for non-STEM pursuits. We are now seeing alumni finishing graduate degrees, impacting their communities, and investing themselves in the next generation of students all around the country.

Our Motives

We value the contribution that future STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professionals will make to our country and our local community. In an increasingly more technical world, it is up to them to keep us on the forefront of development and secure America’s role as a world leader. Many have sounded alarms regarding an increasing gap between the number of individuals entering the STEM workforce and the projected needs we’ll have in tomorrows workforce. Though the projected shortfall varies from study to study and is open for debate. The US Department of Labor has estimated that only 5% of workers are employed in engineering and science…yet they account for 50% of the sustained economic expansion of the US economy. Clearly, if we aim to retain the comforts and advantages that come with being the economic leader of the world, then investing in our STEM educational pipeline should yield significant returns.

However, the Brazos Robotics volunteers, are not primarily investing in the STEM educational pipeline in order to preserve America’s position in world leadership. We are investing our time in people. We believe that mentoring is the key to equipping young people to make sound decisions. As a teaching tool, mentoring conveys ideas and understanding that books and videos cannot touch. Mentoring is the vehicle through which we help the next generation develop healthy perspectives, values, and priorities.

Uniqueness of our Model

The diversity of needs in the student population precludes the existence of a single “magic bullet” program for the masses. Students of all ages encounter STEM at various phases of their academic lives. There is no predicting how receptive a particular individual is at any given time. Students have diverse interests, diverse expectations, and diverse program requirements (location, timing, etc.). If there is only one STEM initiative available during the student’s development, then we run significant risk of missing opportunities to educate and influence that student. The Brazos Robotics model provides year round opportunities for a broad range of ages to explore STEM in varied environments.

  • BotClub is a casual club environment where participants meet on a weekly basis to interact over technology based projects. We build all kinds of robots for fun. The kids get to choose what projects to pursue and how much time to invest in them.
  • BotClub summer camp provides a limited engagement for the kids to explore engineering in a fun and creative project-based environment.
  • STEP Robotics Competition is a more formal experience where students work with their school-sponsored team to build a competitive robot. Teams compete several times through the year with an evolving challenge in each competition phase. STEP is distinguished from other robotics programs in that we intentionally integrate Science, Programming, and investing in the next generation.
  • Journal of Educational Robotics is a new experiment in pre-collegiate refereed publication. We assign research mentors to guide prospective authors through the design, documentation, and publishing of scholarly investigations.
  • Dizzy blog is a knowledge resource that is available for students to explore at their own pace whenever they have the inclination to pursue a technical design project.

We do not know when the “technical bug” will hit any student…we aim to have resources available to them when it does. It’s all part of our STEPpING Stones vision.

 


Directors

President: Dr. Michael Wienen

Dr. Michael Wienen began working with the BEST robotics-mentoring program while still a graduate student in 1996. After received a Ph.D from Texas A&M University in Mechanical Engineering in 1999 he escalated his involvement and assumed the executive director responsibilities. Though he concurrently lectured in the College of Engineering until 2002, since then he has worked solely the BEST Robotics program and related initiatives to inspire intermediate and secondary students towards engineering, science, and technology. In 2005 he authored the EST Foundations curriculum which facilitates teaching engineering concepts to young students. Beginning with the 2014 BEST season, Michael has relinquished Brazos BEST leadership to focus on the other Brazos Robotics initiatives including Summer Camps, BotClub, Journal of Educational Robotics, and the Dizzy-Blog virtual mentoring.

Secretary: Dr. Dan Martin

Dr. Dan Martin began investing in Brazos BEST in the 2011 season. He is now the executive director of Brazos BEST. Dr. Martin is a Research Agricultural Engineer with USDA-ARS in College Station, TX. After receiving an M.S. and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in Agricultural Engineering, Dr. Martin joined ARS with a focus on aerial application technology research. Drawing on over 10 years of experience working one-on-one with aerial applicators while at LSU, his research efforts include aerial application deposition and efficacy studies, electrostatic spray application and precision aerial application research projects for the USDA. He has published over 25 peer-reviewed manuscripts related to aerial application technology and serves on several technical committees within professional societies.

Treasurer: Linda Goerger

Bio coming soon

 

Chief Technical Advisor: Paul Bilke

Bio coming soon