Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Planting the Seeds of Interest: Northwest Vista College's Robotics Program Preps Children for Science Careers

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Planting the Seeds of Interest: Northwest Vista College's Robotics Program Preps Children for Science Careers

Article excerpt

SAN ANTONIO

Luciano Torres watched in amazement as the group of 12-year-olds, clutching backpacks and wearing matching T-shirts, built robots that they could command with their voices.

"I come from a family where almost nobody graduated," says Torres, a second-generation Mexican-American whose daughter, Abigail, was among the children. "I'm just real happy she's getting this opportunity."

Hispanics have long been underrepresented in the science fields, comprising less than 2 percent of the computer science doctorates awarded nationwide in 2003. But a pilot program at San Antonio's Northwest Vista College is trying to change that by introducing Hispanic students to science and technology at a young age. NVC hopes to convince lawmakers and business leaders that the economic future of San Antonio depends on turning the children of immigrants into a highly skilled work force.

This past summer, the college teamed up with businesses, a local school and entrepreneur Jim Brazell to create SpaceTEAMS, an innovative robotics program designed to provide science training to 100 low-income, female and minority children. The goal is to plant the seeds of interest and confidence that, years down the road, may translate into professions in science, technology, engineering and math.

City leaders are eager to promote San Antonio's image as a city on the rise, but there are still pockets of disadvantage, especially among Hispanics. In the nearby suburb of Edgewood, home to many of the children participating in SpaceTEAMS, only 39 percent of eighth-graders met state science standards this year. Only 55 percent met state math standards.

It's areas like Edgewood where Brazell sees the interests of political leaders, business leaders and schools coming together.

"Kids want to learn, regardless of socioeconomic status," he says. …

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