There are some exciting things happening in the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education right now. We announced Friday that the Oklahoma State Department of Education, in partnership with Botball and the University of Oklahoma, will provide grants of up to $2,200 per winning school to facilitate recent start-up and existing middle and high school Botball teams. Botball gives students skills, experience, and opportunities to succeed as they work in teams to design, build and program a pair of autonomous robots for regional and international competitions. For more information or to apply for the grants, click here to access the Botball grant page on our website.

I’m excited to be able to offer these grants to schools.  Programs such as Botball and robotics reinforce many different aspects of STEM. Students have to use science, technology, engineering and math skills as they work together to solve problems and build a working product all while enjoying some friendly competition. I speak often of talks I have with industry leaders who tell me these skills are necessary in today’s work force. We are fortunate in Oklahoma to have many growing areas of industry such as energy, aviation, medicine and technology. We want to be able to provide skilled workers to these employers, and we want our students to enjoy the benefits of higher salaries they will earn if they possess these skills.

Another opportunity for students throughout Oklahoma is Think Through Math’s First Annual Oklahoma Math Cup, which kicks off Monday. Students throughout the state can compete to win prizes while they solve math problems. This will be a fun opportunity for students to compete for school pride and recognition.

We’re fortunate this year to be able to offer Think Through Math free of charge to all Oklahoma public school students in grades four through eight.

This award-winning math intervention program includes instructional help and exercises by grade level for students in fourth through eighth grades in addition to help with Algebra Readiness and Algebra I. It deepens understanding of critical mathematical concepts, improves higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills, and transforms the way students feel about math and themselves. Students can work on this on their own time, outside the classroom and earn some really cool prizes.

One Oklahoma students, Carlos G., a Tulsa seventh-grader, recently won an iPod nano and a $25 iTunes gift card for completing the most lessons on the Think Through Math system in one week. There are many other students throughout the state enjoying similar rewards. For more information about Think Through Math or to register students, click here

I’d like to give a big thank you to our STEM team members at the State Department of Education who have helped implement programs such as the ones I’ve mentioned. Executive Director Jeff Downs, Science Director Tiffany Neil, Instructional Technology Director Derrel Fincher, Secondary Math Director Levi Patrick, and Elementary Math Director Sara Snodgrass are daily connecting with schools to increase the support given in these areas. I hope educators will take advantage of these offerings, and that students and parents will get involved as well.

Learn as if your future depends on it.