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Students Shine at the 2019 Automation Fair

For the fourth year in a row, MIND Research Institute was given a special end-of-year gift of collaborating with our amazing partner, Rockwell Automation, at their 2019 Automation Fair®! Automation Fair is the premier industrial automation event offering unmeasurable knowledge and skill-building opportunities. It was held November 20 and 21 in Chicago and brought together a record-breaking attendance of over 19,000 makers, builders, and innovators from across the globe.

We were invited to exhibit at the Engineering our Future booth along with another leading STEM-based organization, FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics. Our exhibit showcased the programs Rockwell Automation invests in to deeply engage students in problem solving and the fun of STEM! We featured our flagship program, ST Math®, and our storytelling board games, MathMINDs Games: South of the Sahara, funded by Rockwell Automation.  

Showcasing Math Skills With Our Students

Prior to the event, I was charged with finding ST Math student ambassadors to showcase their math skills during the fair. With so many ST Math partner schools in the Chicago area, it was difficult selecting only a handful of students to join us. It was actually my toughest task—but the most rewarding. We chose ambassadors from Amelia Earheart School and Pershing Magnet School.

The students were very familiar with ST Math as most of them were top of their class in program completion. What they were not familiar with were our South of the Sahara games. However, just like our research shows, the storybooks that accompany each game proved intuitive. In no time, our ambassadors understood what needed to be done to play the games and challenge guests!

The students were incredible ambassadors who took their roles very seriously. They really were the stars of the show and didn’t hesitate to approach all of the professional engineers in attendance.  These young STEM leaders and mathematicians would ask questions like:

  • Do you like math? 
  • How did you learn math? 
  • Can I show you a way you wish you would have learned math?

The answer to that last one was always, yes. We had guests who would stay over ten minutes playing games with the students! That’s impressive in an expansive exhibit hall.

There were a significant amount of guests that recognized our penguin mascot, JiJi. Visitors would remark that they’d seen that penguin in their own homes before! Yes, many of the adults enjoying Automation Fair also had children who were learning math at school and through ST Math homework.

One of the most impactful moments came when our young female students noticed that there were very few women walking around the exhibit hall—and even fewer who were minorities. That was very eye-opening for all of us. One student said to me, “Now I really want to be an engineer so other little girls like me have someone to look up to.” I loved hearing those words because that is exactly what MIND and Rockwell Automation aim to do: empower our students.

Bold Conversations with Rockwell Automation

During the event, Rockwell Automation also hosted many different conversations about STEM, culture, and the future. I made sure to join the “Bold Conversations” panel where inclusion and diversity were discussed. These weren’t just surface conversations either—these discussions dove deep. The panelists, which included Patricia Contreras, Director of Global Community Relations and Contributions at Rockwell Automation, shared stories and encouraged authentic dialogue. Patricia spoke about the challenges of creating a culture that differentiates a company for all the right reasons.

With leaders like Patricia, I know students will not only aspire to fill big roles in STEM, but will thrive in those roles! Thank you, Patricia, for using your time on stage to include everyone—especially our young students—in these bold conversations.

One other very special opportunity that Rockwell Automation gave us during Automation Fair was the chance to interview in the #ROKLive studio. Karin Wu, our Executive Vice President and Director of Social Impact, had a great conversation about STEM with Becky House, Senior Vice President of General Counsel at Rockwell Automation and MIND Board Member, and Dr. Brenda DeMar-Williams, Principal of Amelia Earhart School. You can watch the whole interview below (starting at 2:52). 

Our partnership with Rockwell Automation extends far beyond the classroom. Together, we’re able to show students and community members the importance of early math skills. The goal of our partnership was reflected throughout Automation Fair as our students toured exhibits, asked questions, and saw the reality of the future of STEM. That future needs diverse people like our students to solve the world’s most challenging problems.

Thank you to Rockwell Automation for having us, and we hope to see you at the 2020 Automation Fair, November 18 and 19, here in our very own backyard, Anaheim, California!

Check out our Facebook videos page to see more coverage and behind the scenes moments from the event.

Maria Cervantes

About the Author

Maria Cervantes is the Community Partnerships Director at MIND Research Institute. Find her on Twitter @magucervantes1.

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