Grants fund coding, robotics for kids

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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A new round of state grants will fund robots, coding classes for special education students and teacher training across Southwest Washington.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is funding science, technology, engineering and math programs — more commonly known as STEM — across the state, including ones at Vancouver Public Schools, Battle Ground Public Schools and Educational Service District 112.

A $5,000 grant will allow Vancouver Public Schools to launch a pilot class for coding in five special education classrooms next year. The Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools added a matching $5,000, bringing the total to $10,000 for the program.

Grant funds will pay for iPads in kindergarten through second grade special education classrooms, as well as training for their teachers, according to a district news release. Students in those classes will learn basic coding as well as robotics, which the district says will “lay an early foundation for future career opportunities,” according to the release.

Battle Ground, meanwhile, received $11,800 in grants to support STEM programs at CAM Academy, Daybreak Middle and Tukes Valley Middle schools.

Students, through nonprofit FIRST Washington, will build and program competitive robots. CAM Academy will receive $9,200 for the school’s robotics team, The CloverBots, while Daybreak and Tukes will each receive $1,300 to participate in the non-profit’s LEGO League competitions. Students will design robots to solve various challenges in front of a panel of judges, such as transporting water.

ESD 112 received $5,000 to expand computer science professional development for teachers. STEM Director Vickei Hrdina said the grant will train kindergarten through second grade teachers in coding activities, introductory robots and ways to teach students about problem solving using computers.