The Robotics Challenge

A partnership between the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC), the University of Saskatchewan and various science-based businesses culminated in a new outreach program aimed at young Aboriginal students.

By Colleen MacPherson
The STC Robotics Challenge was held in November when 60 students from six STC schools spent a day at the U of S learning about programming and building robots, an initiative organized by the College of Arts and Science Division of Science's outreach office. In addition to scientists from the U of S, volunteers from IBM, Cameco, Refresh, the Saskatchewan Science Centre and also lent their time and expertise to the event.

"The STC Robotics Challenge was an amazing opportunity to invite students from Saskatoon Tribal Council communities to join us on campus and to connect with so many volunteers from the community," said Lana Elias, director of science outreach in the College of Arts and Science. "It's very rewarding to see students engaged in science activities,"

Much of Elias's science outreach work is targeted at Aboriginal youth, as the College of Arts & Science has made Aboriginal student recruitment and engagement one of its top priorities. In addition to the Robotics Challenge, Elias also helps co-ordinate the PotashCorp Kamskénow program, a weekly science education initiative delivered to more than 250 students in Saskatoon inner city schools. Other outreach programs include Wonder Why Webinars delivered throughout Saskatchewan and the Science Explorers Club.

Josephine McKay, career educator co-ordinator for the STC, said all students who participated in the Robotics Challenge indicated they would like to learn more about science and would definitely take part in the event again if given the opportunity.

"Our First Nation students had a wonderful day that combined fun and learning," said McKay. "What I took away from the day was the fact that every student could utilize their skill and ability because this activity required them to work together as builders, programmers and last but not least race crews."

For more information on services and programs for Aboriginal students at the U of S, click here.