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robots rock and STEM rules (part 1)

in robots in education by Dr. Patrick Konopnicki

A special guest blog interview with award-winning educator Dr. Patrick M. Konopnicki, Director of Technical and Career Education in Virginia Beach Public Schools.  Following is part 1 of 2.

Technical and Career Education in Virginia Beach Public Schools

RR: You have a very diverse background. Tell us what sparked your interest in Robotics.

My robotics interest comes from a personal level.  When my son was in middle school and was involved in a national robotics competition, he carried that forward into high school and on to an interest in mechanical engineering, where as a college senior he was part of a robot team that competed internationally.  Although he is now in the field of nuclear engineering, he still loves robotics and thinks what we are doing now in VBCPS K-12 is “really cool.” If Robotics can be a hook for him, it can work as well for any student.

RR:  What prompted you and the Virginia Beach City Public Schools ( VBCPS) to become so highly innovative, on the leading edge of technology, and how can others follow this path?

The VBCPS mantra is “Ahead of the Curve” and in the Office of Technical and Career education we have taken that to heart over the last several years by being a leader in many areas such as: partnership with economic development, student industry credentialing, 3D printing, iTunes U course resources for CTE programs, and of course STEM Robotics, just to name a few. We think others can certainly become forward thinking by asking the “why not?” question when it comes to innovation.  Just because something is at a higher level doesn’t mean that we can’t cascade it down to K-12 education.

RR: How is STEM education different than its precursor?

STEM education in K-12 emphasizes the four areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  In VBCPS we are making a conscious effort to use the engineering design process in the K-12 curriculum as early as possible.  A great example of that is our K-12 STEM Robotics Challenge (SRC) which is designed to stimulate the interest and enthusiasm of all students, but in particular young women and minorities in the fields of math, science, and especially, engineering. This problem solving and critical thinking exposure and experience will enable students to make informed high school course selections that will adequately prepare them for career pathways at the post-secondary level.

With nearly 60 VBCPS schools participating this year, not only is this an all-time record for VBCPS, but our more than 800 participating K-12 students will be some of the future STEM innovators and leaders for Virginia. What makes the SRC unique is that all teams are required to submit an electronic engineering design process that chronicles their year-long experience.

This portion of our effort is judged by industry, city and local educational experts who join together as a way of using STEM education to help increase the pipeline to the well-paying STEM workforce of today and the future.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview, in which Dr. Konopnicki discusses the future of STEM, including funding strategies, certification programs and the types of jobs being offered to graduates of this program.

 

Dr. Patrick M. Konopnicki has been Director of Technical and Career Education in Virginia Beach Public Schools since 1992. A former classroom teacher, principal and professor with George Washington University, Dr. Konopnicki has served on the Governor’s Council for School/Business Partnerships and the Governor’s Task Force for the Construction Industry. In 2002, he received the outstanding service award from the National State Career and Technical Education Directors. In 2009, Dr. Konopnicki was named an Education Fellow at Old Dominion University and received the National Thomas Olivo Outstanding Service Award presented by NOCTI. The following year, he was appointed to the ACTE National Energy and Sustainability Task Force. His latest passions include STEM Robotics K-12, CTE certifications and Workplace Readiness and Sustainability as a 21st century skill.


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About the Author

Dr. Patrick Konopnicki

Dr. Patrick M. Konopnicki has been Director of Technical and Career Education in Virginia Beach Public Schools since 1992. A former classroom teacher, principal and professor with George Washington University, Dr. Konopnicki has served on the Governor's Council for School/Business Partnerships and the Governor's Task Force for the Construction Industry. In 2002, he received the outstanding service award from the National State Career and Technical Education Directors. In 2009, Dr. Konopnicki was named an Education Fellow at Old Dominion University and received the National Thomas Olivo Outstanding Service Award presented by NOCTI. The following year, he was appointed to the ACTE National Energy and Sustainability Task Force. His latest passions include STEM Robotics K-12, CTE certifications and Workplace Readiness and Sustainability as a 21st century skill.



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