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Rural Nye County school could get Tesla grant for robotics and automation program

Tesla’s efforts to offer funds to K-12 schools in Nevada to encourage students to consider careers in science, technology engineering and math (STEM) or sustainability could reach the Nye County School District.

The Nye County School District is currently working on applying for grant funding from Tesla, which has committed to offering $37.5 million over the next several years to K-12 education in Nevada.

The electric car maker announced $250,000 in available grant funds to “provide Project Lead The Way (PLTW) programs,” that involve hands-on learning experiences in computer science, engineering and biomedical science for pre-K to twelfth-grade students, in up to 20 middle schools across the state, in partnership with the Nevada Department of Education, in May.

Karen Holley, coordinator of federal and state programs at the Nye County School District, said in an email that she is planning to apply for a grant for one of the district’s rural schools.

Holley is currently working on designing the project for the Nye County school.

“These grants will increase access to hands-on learning experiences statewide through Project Lead The Way Gateway’s Automation and Robotics unit for hundreds of middle school students in the 2019-20 school year,” a news release from the state’s education department stated. “This program supports the career and technical education middle school Skilled and Technical Sciences Standards, specifically the middle school Building Engineers course.”

“Academic programs such as Project Lead The Way have the power to expose students to college and career pathways, providing them with the transferable skills that they need for success in high school and beyond,” said Jhone Ebert, superintendent of public instruction for the state’s department of education. “Hands-on, experiential learning adds applicable relevancy to students’ learning experiences, and the earlier that we can do that, the farther students will go by connecting them to real-world experiences.”

The grant applications are due by June 30 to get involved in this project.

“…Tesla is working with the Department of Education to provide over 50% of this grant to Nevada’s smaller school districts in support of developing additional infrastructure for automation and robotics across the entire state,” the department of education’s release stated.

“Providing students with access to engaging and hands-on career learning at an early age is absolutely critical to the economic vitality of our communities and our nation,” said Project Lead the Way President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Vince Bertram. “PLTW is proud to partner with Tesla and the Nevada Department of Education to expand access to these opportunities to students and teachers.”

“Automation and Robotics is one of 10 units offered in the Project Lead The Way Gateway program for students in grades 6-8,” the department of education’s release stated. “In this unit, students trace the history, development, and influence of automation and robotics as they learn about mechanical systems, energy transfer, machine automation, and computer control systems.”

According to a release from the state’s department of education, Tesla announced its initial round of K-12 education grants in July 2018. At that time, Tesla announced $1.5 million in grants.

“The demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs in Nevada will continue to grow dramatically over the next few years,” said JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technology officer in the July 2018 release. “That is why we’re investing in initiatives that inspire students to choose a career in STEM and sustainability and give them a foundation for success.”

“When Tesla entered into an incentive agreement with the state, the company pledged to donate $37.5 million to K-12 education; however, it was not part of the agreement,” said Keith Paul, communications director for the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The Nye school district currently doesn’t have any grants supported by Tesla.

“We did take some GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) students that were in the CTE Automotive Technology classes to visit the Tesla site near Reno and tour the Truckee Meadows Community College program that is partnered with Tesla,” Holley said in an email. “It was a great learning experience for our students and the Tesla and post-secondary partnership was impressive.”

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com

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