TechGarage expands; hires local students as coaches

WEST PALM BEACH — Boys & Girls Clubs in Delray Beach and Riviera Beach are two of 12 after-school programs in Palm Beach County taking part in TechGarage, a year-round competitive robotics program located at FAU Tech Runway® within the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University.

The Department of Education awarded Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County a 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, which includes the expansion of the TechGarage program to four additional club sites in the Glades area. This will allow 600 elementary and middle school age club members to engage in college-level work twice a week, building robots, using cutting-edge technology, and competing against their peers.

Each location will be equipped with a laser cutter, multiple 3D printers, and a computer lab focused on learning how to program, CAD, 3D printing, soldering, laser cutting, robotics, drones and underwater robotics.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Robotics and programming college students from Palm Beach State College’s Belle Glade campus and FAU are hired as robotics coaches to our members helping the college students with their own education and leadership skills.

Other after-school programs that participate in TechGarage include the Milagro Center, Achievement Centers for Children & Families, Pearl City C.A.T.S., PBSO PAL WestGate, Royal Palm Beach Community High School, and West Palm Beach PAL.

“The program provides academic enrichment to students attending low-performing schools to help them meet state academic standards,” said Lotus Holem, Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County’s director of programming. “They really enjoy learning new skills that reinforce and complement the regular school day. For most of them, it will be their first time being exposed to robots and drones.”

The organization’s S.T.E.A.M. program exposes thousands of disadvantaged youth to science and technology as well as art forms such as music instruments, dance, pottery, photography and crafts.

In addition, club members enjoy an array of programs such as academic support, sports, living healthy lifestyles, computer skills and literacy.

Some of the brightest students in Florida have been a part of TechGarage with many having won multiple competitions including Emerge America, Code for Good hackathon, and a first Tech Challenge robotics world championship. Six students have been accepted into Stanford University and nine students have interned at the Max Planck Institute for Neuroscience.

Members from the Riviera Beach Boys & Girls Club will be among 64 local teams competing in the 2019 South Florida first Robotics Competition to be held March 27 – 30 at the Palm Beach Convention Center.

Club kids have been working together twice weekly using the challenge-based learning model to build, program and test robots with the guidance of Florida Atlantic University engineering students, who are hired by TechGarage as robotics coaches.

Youth then compete with their robots as family and friends cheer from the stands at more than 160 events worldwide, such as the one at the Palm Beach Convention Center – leading up to the 2019 first championship on April 17 in Houston, Texas and on April 24 in Detroit, Mich.

“It’s simply a cycle of success that will not only retain top local talent, but will prepare the S.T.E.A.M. workforce of tomorrow,” stated Scooter Willis, director of TechGarage.

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County assisted TechGarage with hiring students from Palm Beach State College’s Belle Glade campus as robotics coaches for the Glades Area program. Boys & Girls Club members will learn the newest technological innovations while college students will learn leadership skills, and employers will gain access to a new talent pipeline in the Glades area.

“TechGarage’s expansion demonstrates the power of partnerships between industry and education,” said Kelly Smallridge, President and CEO of the Business Development Board. “It will help with our business attraction and expansion efforts in the Glades Region.”

For more information about TechGarage, please visit tech-garage.org. To donate to the program or volunteer, please visit BGCPBC.org or call Lotus Holem at 561-683-3287.

About Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County
Founded in 1971, Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit youth development organization dedicated to promoting the educational, vocational, health, leadership and character of boys and girls in a safe, nurturing environment. Thirteen Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Palm Beach County serve more than 9,300 children ages 6 to 18. In addition to a safe, fun and constructive alternative to being home alone, the clubs offer a variety of award-winning developmental programs to help youth build skills, self-esteem and values during critical periods of growth. For more information, please visit www.bgcpbc.org or call 561-683-3287.

About TechGarage
TechGarage’s mission is to develop self-sustainable models for educational robotics programs that engage young minds in building science, technology, engineering, and math skills, while simultaneously inspiring innovation and creativity. We enable students to work collaboratively in a team environment that fosters well-rounded life management capabilities, including self-confidence, communication and leadership.

About the BDB
During the past five years, the BDB has assisted companies that have created more than 12,822 direct jobs with average salaries greater than $69,062, resulting in more than $777 million in capital investment to Palm Beach County and an economic impact that exceeds $6.87 billion. Additional information can be found at www.BDB.org.

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