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Robotics Team Awarded an Appalachian Regional Commission Grant

Last Updated on Apr 5, 2019 at 1:07pm

Garrett County high school’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 1629, GaCo, has been awarded a $30,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Federal matching grant for the purpose of establishing school-based FIRST programs across the central Appalachian region.
 
GaCo students presented their project, "Garrett County Vision for Appalachia: All Students STEM Ready", to ARC Federal Co-Chair, Mr. Tim Thomas, while he was on tour in Garrett County last September. The team was assisted in the application process by Maryland ARC Manager, Mr. Bill Atkinson, as well as Garrett County Economic Development Project Manager, Ms. Cindy Sharon. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
 
According to a team spokesperson, “The approval of this ARC project would not be possible without the expertise of Mr. Atkinson and Ms. Sharon. We also wish to express our gratitude to ARC Co-Chair, Mr. Thomas, and his staff, especially Mr. Jeffrey Schwartz, ARC Project Manager for Education and Workforce Development.” The team also expresses its appreciation to the finance office of the Garrett County Government for its oversight and management of the project.
 
Ms. Barbara Baker, Garrett County Public Schools Superintendent stated, “This is truly an innovative partnership with our robotics program, the ARC, and Garrett County Government. It is exciting to see all partners involved working together towards the good of Garrett County while providing a wonderful opportunity for our students as they make a difference in the surrounding Appalachia region. It’s a true win-win for all.”
 
County Commissioner Chairman, Paul Edwards, noted that "It is exciting that our renowned robotics team is now going to have the opportunity to expand their influence up and down Appalachia. Their ability to work with school systems and kids will just help grow the ecosystem for STEM in the entire region to help facilitate economic development in that arena and the skill sets to fill potential new jobs created by that development."
 
With matching funds raised by GaCo over the next eighteen months, the total budget for the project will total $60,000, all of which is above and beyond the team’s normal operating budget provided by its partners and fundraising efforts of the team. All ARC grant expenditures will go towards providing opportunities for GaCo students to share the team’s story with school administrators, Board of Education members, and at professional level K-12 educational conferences throughout Appalachia. The grant will also help provide assistance in initiating FIRST programs outside of Garrett County.
 
GaCo has been working towards its vision of all students having the opportunity to develop those essential skills for their success in STEM for the past four years. According to the team, “We have developed a model for achieving our vision in Garrett County and we are excited to have the opportunity to replicate our model in our surrounding Appalachian region through the establishing FIRST programs in rural school districts similar to ours. We love to share our passion for STEM education.”
 
In addition to its pursuit of “All Students - STEM Ready”, GaCo, along with the 3,500 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams, build robots for competition, of which, GaCo is in its fifteenth season. GaCo, FRC 1629, is currently preparing for its participation in the Chesapeake District Championship on April 10-12 at George Mason University. More about FRC 1629 and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) can be found at garrettcountyschools.org/FRC1629.
 
Robotics students with representative of Maryland ARC.
Pictured: GaCo students during their presentation to ARC Co-Chairman Mr. Tim Thomas at Accident Elementary School.
Left to Right: Ms. Wendi Peters, Maryland Secretary for Smart Growth; Students Jessica Storck, Noah Aiken, Mariah Bolden, Cheyenne Reckart, Sarah Smith, and Katie Catulle; Mr. Thomas, and Commissioner Paul Edwards.
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