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NASA taps robotics institute as local education partner

PRIOR's educational agenda benefits hundreds of local students each year. (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

The Puerto Rico Institute of Robotics, a local nonprofit dedicated to sparking the interest and knowledge among students in the disciplines of science, math, engineering, and technology, has been chosen among nine organizations that will partner with NASA this summer to help the agency implement its 2011 “Summer of Innovation” education program.

SoI uses NASA’s out-of-this-world missions and technology programs to boost summer learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, particularly for underrepresented and underperforming students, the agency said upon making the announcement.

The local organization known as PRIOR is the product of an alliance between the Puerto Rico Polytechnic University, NASA, the Education Department, and the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Corp. It will join educational institutions in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nebraska, Texas, Idaho, South Dakota and Indiana in implementing the program.

NASA intends to award nine cooperative agreements for these SoI partnerships that total approximately $6.75 million. Awards have a period of performance of 48 months. The selected partners will engage students during the summer with follow up during the academic year through afterschool programs.

“I am delighted that we have such a broad and diverse group of partner organizations ready to implement this year’s Summer of Innovation program,” said Leland Melvin, NASA associate administrator for education. “We look forward to building on the momentum that began last year, so we can engage and inspire even more middle school students to reach higher and pursue STEM career opportunities.”

Awardees will develop collaborations between school districts and informal education providers to “excite and engage thousands of students in high quality learning experiences,” NASA said.

The federal space agency also will support its chosen partner institutions as they engage local teachers in professional development to support high quality instruction in STEM disciplines. NASA’s goal is to increase the number of future scientists, mathematicians and engineers, with an emphasis on broadening participation by low-income and minority students.

Earlier this year, PRIOR received a $100,000 grant from Pridco to benefit approximately 7,000 students through various robotics-related forums and presentations. The money granted in March will also enable about 500 students to join the 2011 Technological Challenge robotics competition. That means about twice as many students benefiting from PRIOR’s program in comparison to last year, PRIOR representatives said.

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Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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