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Nebraska Innovation Studio Adds Robotics To Native Youth STEM Camp

Nebraska Innovation Studio, part of the Heartland Robotics Cluster, hosted 33 Native high school students in June as part of a week-long STEM camp. The students were challenged to design better graspers for small, remote-control robots.

Travis Ray, Coordinator for Innovation Studio’s Embedded Systems programming, gave students a nearly functional robot and challenged them to complete it.

Students utilized commonplace materials to construct claws, shovels, and launchers that would enable their robot to compete in a basketball-timed trial, with the best team scoring four points within a minute.

“It is an honor to train the next generation of STEM leaders. They creatively utilized their engineering skills to complete the robotics challenge and had a fun time as well. I look forward to watching them become the next generation of inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs,” Ray said.

Nebraska Innovation Studio is a 16,000-square-foot makerspace, located on Nebraska Innovation Campus. The makerspace, which is open to the public, has a wood shop, metal shop, rapid prototyping room, textiles and art studios, and a ceramics area.

The Native STEM Leadership Camp, sponsored by the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs and the Mid-America Transportation Center, has included Nebraska Innovation Studio since 2017. This is the first year that robotics has been offered as part of the week-long camp.

Nebraska Innovation Studio was awarded $4.1 million as part of the U.S. Economic Development Agency’s $25 million Heartland Robotics Cluster grant. With the grant, the makerspace will purchase robotic arms, cutting-edge 3D printers, an advanced 3D scanner, and other equipment.

Nebraska Innovation Studio is also preparing programming as a resource to the local entrepreneur and business community. This programming includes Introduction to Automation, Introduction to Robotic Prototyping, and Introduction to Embedded Systems.

The grant is designed to accelerate Nebraska’s leadership in the agricultural industry through robotic technologies and advanced manufacturing automation while also revitalizing the region's rural labor force and strengthening the nation’s food supply chain.

Other partners in the Heartland Robotics Cluster are the University of Nebraska Lincoln College of Engineering, Metro Community College in Omaha, Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Manufacturing Extension, and the Combine, an ag-tech incubator.

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