The Newest High School ‘Sport’ in W.Va. -- Robotics Team
Robotics team competitions are now recognized as a high school co-curricular activity under the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission.
The designation was made official Nov. 1, and NASA’s Education Resource Center is leading the way. This gives students involved in robotics the same amount of recognition as varsity sports or other types of extracurricular clubs.
Program manager Todd Ensign says the program helps students develop STEM-related skills and team communication.
“It’s one of the most engaging ways to learn while having fun, so kids don’t even realize that they’re developing a tremendous amount of skills that are gonna help them with both academia as well as their future careers,” said Ensign. “It's such a beneficial program that it seems unjust that many schools don’t have access to competitive robotics.”
NASA’s ERC program has supported STEM-related activities throughout West Virginia for years, via a grant from Fairmont State University. The program allows students to visit the ERC facility in Fairmont for hands-on activities. The program also supports STEM competitions like the Lego League Challenge and the VEX Robotics Competition — events that attract students across the state.
This new designation means more support for robotics programs statewide, including more participation and easier accessibility. Fairmont State program specialist Ryan Utzman says it also means it places West Virginia ahead of the curve.
“Over the past seven years, we’ve been working towards this. I think the first state that recognized robotics as an official activity was Minnesota,” said Utzman. “Over that period of time, six other states recognize that as an activity, but we’re still in the first 10.”
The first official robotics event is the state championship on May 16, 2022. It takes place on the Fairmont State University campus. Ensign says every high school in the state is invited to compete.