ON Semiconductor Supports Diversity in STEM
As a leader in the quickly evolving technology industry, ON Semiconductor recognizes the need to prepare young people for the employment landscape of the future and to ensure that those involved come from diverse backgrounds. Active company initiatives such as STEM UP (one of our affinity network groups focused around science, technology, engineering and mathematics for underrepresented populations) and our global giving program have responded to this need by investing time and resources into the communities in which we do business.
In 2019, ON Semiconductor awarded a grant to the Robotics Institute of Maine (RIM), a nonprofit organization that strives to provide opportunities to middle and high school students to explore the world of robotics in a competitive, yet community-oriented environment. With this funding, RIM was able ensure ten high school robotics teams received continued financial support to participate in the VEX and FIRST Robotics competitions. RIM was also able to direct critical funding towards the FIRST LEGO League, a pipeline robotics program aimed at engaging 9 to 14 year olds in science and technology. This age range is an especially crucial time to catalyze interest among girls and young women in the heavily male dominated fields of engineering and computer science – two disciplines forming the backbone of robotics innovation.
RIM actively promotes participation of young women and minorities in robotics alongside its goal to increase overall accessibility of robotics programs across the state of Maine, particularly in rural areas. Since its inception, there has been a threefold increase in participation rates as about 1,000 students from 68 communities are now currently involved. Recent data from the VEX and FIRST Robotics competitions show that females comprise around 30% of participants, many of whom are first exposed to the world of computer science and robotics engineering through these programs.
Zoe Vittum, a soon-to-graduate senior from Brewer High School in Brewer, Maine, provided some insight into the extent of the program’s impact on her personal and intellectual development:
“Before robotics, I knew that I was interested in the STEM field but I never knew what I wanted to do or even what I could do. Robotics allowed me to learn about what existed and gave me the opportunity to explore what I was interested in.”
Zoe intends to study biomedical engineering at the University of Maine next year, and credits her involvement in robotics for inspiring her choice of study. As she moves onto the next phase in life, Zoe is prepared to bring along a valuable set of interpersonal skills and unique array of technical knowledge gained from her five years of robotics experience.
As the RIM Vice Chair Nick Stinson stated:
“Robotics is not all about technical aspects such as software. The students are exposed to soft skills as well. Being able to organize and lead a team, plan a complex project, manage financial resources, and set goals and meet them is all part of the process. As a technical manager myself, those skills can be hard to find but they prove to be very, very valuable.”
Nick also noted how these programs build self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment within students as they learn to successfully design, build and program a robot with their team and mentors. Most importantly, they have a ton of fun along the way.
ON Semiconductor is grateful for the opportunity to support RIM in the important work they do to engage youth in STEM. By inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists, RIM is opening the door for a more diverse and empowered workforce to lead society’s transition into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
For more information about how the Robotics Institute of Maine promotes hands-on robotics opportunities for young people, visit their Web site at https://www.robotsinme.org/.