Discussed Making Robotics a Sport with MCPS

Two weeks ago students from Walt Whitman and Richard Montgomery High Schools met with staff from MCPS to discuss making robotics a sport.  The goal of the meeting was to learn how this transition could take place.  Instead the meeting focused more on bringing MCPS staff up to speed on the scale of robotics in the county and why robotics should be a sport.

As a refresher, here is the scale of robotics in the county;

Teams Students Annual Private Funds
FRC 6 210  $           90,000
FTC 21 252  $           73,500
FLL 60 540  $           72,000
Jr FLL 13 52  $           11,700
VEX 4 48  $           14,000
VEX – IQ 6 54  $              7,200
BotBall 2 18  $              2,400
Non Competitive programs 8 240  $              9,600
 Sub totals              120          1,414  $        280,400

 

We also talked about the lack of a secondary sports equivalent for STEM sports in Montgomery County.  Right now the county spends nearly 8 million dollars a year on 22,400 middle school and high school athletes to play after school sports.  That translates to $7,000 per high school team and $4,600 per middle school team.  In contrast, most robotics teams pay MCPS and CUPF $6,000 a year.

Sports Gap 1

We also discussed that f MCPS were to match the private funds currently invested in robotics that the county could double or even triple the number of teams in the county and ensure that each team has a coach that is well rewarded for their time.  We also discussed our estimate of nearly $650,000 per year to pyt robotics in every school.

# of schools Registration Teacher stipend Annual Program total
High School 25  $        5,000  $        5,000  $         250,000
Middle School 38  $            500  $        2,500  $         114,000
Elementary School 135  $            250  $        1,500  $         236,250
MCPS Coordinator 1  $      50,000  $           50,000
 $         650,250

 

 

We were able to talk about why robotics should be a sport, so we went through our points.

  1. Larger stipends for robotics coaches
  2. Schools participate in filling robotics coach vacancies so that teams do not go with out a coach
  3. Access to practice space and build space without being charged CUPF fees
  4. Access to MoCo transportation resources for attending events
  5. Access to team administration support in the school and at the county level
  6. Access to gyms and schools for tournaments at zero cost to the team
  7. Access to a well maintained shop similar to upkeep on the school weight room
  8. Students could varsity letter in robotics

 

We also discussed the major positives for the MCPS athletics Directors office, MCPS and the County Council

  1. More people would be interested in and responsible for growing STEM students inside the county
  2. More people would be interested in and responsible for growing diversity of STEM student participation inside the county
  3. More people would be interested in and responsible for growing the number of project based learning activities inside the county
  4. More students inside the county would be prepared to walk out of high school prepared for both college and vocational training
  5. Athletics would get access to county, state and federal funds dedicated towards STEM programs
  6. Athletics would get access to county, state and federal funds dedicated towards Vocational training programs

 

The responses from MCPS to our request to making robotics a sport were the following

  • If we do this for robotics we need to do this for theater and other activities
    • Our response, that because MCPS wants to make every student STEM literate that this aligns to their goals, while the other activities you mentioned do not.  Also, we are looking for inter school play, much of the arts and other clubs are not set up to be competitive.
  • Well than why not make math club a sport
    • Our response, that is a great idea, and in time math club could be ready to take that step.  However, currently, the only STEM sport that has the participation, structure and logistical support at every level of  k-12 is robotics.  That is why we are recommending robotics as the first STEM program to be classified as a sport, to see if it has the desired effects on STEM diversity and participation.  If robotics does have an over all positive impact on STEM participation in the county, than we can look for other STEM sports to add to the athletics department.
  • No other state has classified robotics as a sport and sports need to include some level of athletic activity
    • Our response, in Michigan, the state made robotics a state level activity comparable to sports.  The state and local school districts changed their level of support for robotics to match that normally reserved for athletics.  The result was an explosion of robotics teams and kids participating in after school STEM activities.  That is what we want to duplicate here.  In addition, if you look at the motivation behind corollary sports in the county, MCPS tried to find competitive activities that are coed and can be played by students with all manor of disabilities.  We think this would be a great addition to the corollary sports list on the county.  Lastly, you talked about the need for athletic activity to be considered a sport. We believe robotics has more than enough physical activity to exceed that found in all of the corollary sports as well as all of the same stressors you might fin in the last 2 minutes of a football game.
  •  Couldn’t this be some other type of club?  Maybe something that is like a sport but not a sport?
    • Our response, would MCPS be willing to set something like that up?
      • MCPS’s response, we will look into it.

 

Over all the conversation went well, but we were not able to get specifics on how MCPS could declare robotics a sport, or sport equivalent.  We were reassured by the new superintendents words on the KoJo show earlier that day, where he said he wants robotics in every school in the county.  We also learned that he likes data, so here is a good amount of data how much of an impact robotics has on students. http://team1389.com/we-need-to-be-the-change-we-want-to-see/

A few actions for MCPS;

  • Let us know when we can see the plan for getting robotics into every school in the county
  • Let us know how we can help make that plan real
  • Let us know how much funding you would need to make the plan real

 

 

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