Miami middle school students study STEM, robotics during summer vacation

Middle school students across Miami-Dade County are embarking on a summer learning program to learn about STEM. It’s called the Verizon Innovative Learning Program — and it’s finally all in-person.

The program is a free, month-long extensive STEM program for about one hundred young students.

“We do robotics, 3D printing, programming,” says FIU After School Allstars Executive Director Sean Prospect.

“They’re working on getting these rovers coded to autonomously navigate around an obstacle course,” explains Tanjim Hossain, a math and science teacher.

Most of the students in the summer program hail from Carol City, West Miami, and Andover middle schools. Because of the pandemic, for many of these bright kids, this is the first in-classroom experience in a while.

“I missed the interactions that I could have in person with other people,” says Alex Nottage, a 10-year-old student.

Nottage is one of the youngest, who at 10, knows he wants to play sports and be an engineer.

“This would help me a lot with my engineering and my programming,” explains 10-year-old Nottage. “To me, that’s basically why me and my dad agreed to go here, because I want to learn how to program and make my own stuff.”

“They’re just coding robots,” says freshman Mya Bethel of North Miami High School.

The lack of person-to-person interaction, the online learning is arguably responsible for what many are calling the “COVID gap,” a pandemic-related academic setback for even the smartest kids, like those in this group.

“This is kind of like an introduction to the kind of things they’re going to want to be doing, not just in high school, but in college,” explains Hossain.

Yes, automation has taken over our world, and robots are replacing humans. However, Hossain says we need the younger generation to learn how to make it all run.

“At the end of the day, there has still got to be a human behind the robot,” says Hossain.

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