Motorola Foundation grant will let Robocamp hit the road

Thursday, November 15, 2007

After three years of offering "Robocamp," summer day camps in which female secondary school students learn about careers in engineering and construct robots, the University of North Texas will go right to the school districts in hopes of attracting women to the engineering field.

UNT has received a $30,000, one-year "Innovation Generation" grant from the Motorola Foundation to establish a "Robocamp Mobile Unit," which will work with the Southwest Girls Collaborative Project, the Society for Women Engineers and several local Girl Scout Councils to visit school districts in Denton, Dallas and Tarrant counties. The mobile unit will specifically target those districts with a large percentage of Hispanic and African-American female junior high and high school students.

Robocamp organizer David Keathly, a lecturer and undergraduate advisor with the UNT Department of Computer Science and Engineering, says the mobile unit will recreate the full Robocamp experience by bringing equipment, supplies and UNT faculty and student assistants to the students. He adds that he and Robocamp co-director Robert Akl hope the mobile unit will visit four school districts next year.

UNT first offered Robocamp summer day camps in 2004 for female students entering the 8th through 11th grades. The camps take place at both the UNT campus in Denton and the UNT Dallas campus.

This past summer, the camps were expanded to include an advanced Robocamp, a CSExperience computer programming camp and an Eng-inuity! engineering design camp. Participants in these camps receive hands-on exposure to engineering and are able to hear from guest speakers who show the campers what they need to do now to prepare for a future in science and technology.

Eileen Sweeney, director of the Motorola Foundation, said Motorola decided to give the grant to the UNT College of Engineering because the company "strives to help young people make the critical connection between the cutting-edge technologies they enjoy every day and the educational foundation required to develop these cool products."

"Motorola's partnership with UNT's Robocamp Mobile Unit helps inspire a love of science by providing real-world experience and access to expert role models for young people around the nation," she says.

Dr. Oscar Garcia, founding dean of the UNT College of Engineering, is excited about the possibilities of the "Robocamp Mobile Unit."

"Motorola's significant grant to our Mobile Robocamp effort is a tribute to the corporate appreciation of the motivational value that the summer camp has among young high school and middle school female student. They see technology as a live action accessible endeavor which is within their reach and capabilities, as it should be," he says. "It is also a tribute to the faculty members who contribute their time and efforts to this project."

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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