New Student ‘Robotics Center’ Opens in Former Southside School Building


Representatives of local and state governments and professionals from Tesla and the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) gathered this morning for the grand opening of the K-12 Robotics Center at the corner of Liberty and Sinclair streets.

The center will be used by students participating in robotics competitions but is open to all school-aged children in the area.

The building is owned by the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), which will oversee the operations of the center. The location of the new center was originally the annex to the Southside Side School, built in the 1930s. It was a time when Reno was growing up, despite the Great Depression. Today the building is equipped with modern technologies that could not have been imagined at the time of its construction.

Help to fund the establishment of the center came from Tesla, which modernized and installed new space heating, ventilation and cooling systems.

EDAWN also facilitated its development and added a regional robotics coordinator, Caroline Hanson, to its staff to support programming and connect professionals, teachers and students involved in robotics-related efforts in the region.

The robotics center contains a barrier-lined field for testing robots, a smaller Lego robot building space, dozens of power outlets attached to extension cords that drop from its ceiling, and a well-equipped carpentry workshop, for which security certifications can be obtained. It contains a CNC router, table saw, desktop planar, soldering station, laser cutter, drill press and a suite of power tools, among others.

There’s also a classroom space in the Robotics Center, which university officials hope local tech and robotics-focused companies will use. The idea is to have a space where current professionals can meet future ones to start collaborations.

“The community comes together and that’s what has to happen to create these opportunities.

Mirdul Gautam is Vice President of Research and Innovation at UNR. He said he was happy to have a dedicated and well-equipped space where students in the community can go to engage in science, technology, engineering and math education ( STEM) through practical experience.

“We didn’t have a place like this in Reno, and now they can all get together and work here. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, this place will be open to them, ”Gautam said. “If they want to do it, it will be open.”

Finding time to work from the Robotics Center can be done by contacting the University’s Innovation Center. The ability to schedule hours outside of standard office hours aims to increase accessibility to the center and the tools it contains.

“Things like coding and being one with STEM, that should come as naturally as you learn to walk and talk because right now, whether in the artists space or in the liberal space, the connections are so narrow, ”Gautam said, noting that students across fields of study are increasingly encouraged to understand the evolution of technology.

Inspired by robotics

It comes naturally to Tyler Du, a high school student who has been on the Fyre Robotics team for five years. Du’s team, one of three present at the grand opening, faces off against others in local and national schools. It is open to high school students in Washoe County.

“Every year in January, we have six weeks to build a robot,” he said. “And then after, we go to UC Davis to compete.”

Du said he got his inspiration from robotics in college and then watched a demonstration by Team Fyre. He joined him in eighth grade and now intends to major in computer science, which he believes will allow him to develop skills similar to those he uses in his role on the team.

Robot Du and his team built and demonstrated at the inauguration can pick up balls from the ground and then throw them into a high ground goal. Du’s programming of the robot includes its commands, as well as its autonomous mode features, which allow the robot to take data from built-in sensors that pick up things like spatial information and colors to enable it to use its own orders.

Students from the area explore Southside School’s new K-12 Robotics Center when it opens on August 6, 2021 in Reno, Nevada Image: Jeri Chadwell / This Is Reno

Create opportunities

Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of EDAWN, said he and others in his organization viewed STEM and STEAM (STEM plus an “a” for the arts) as essential.

“STEAM training is essential in this region for many reasons,” he said. “The first is that the jobs that come here require these skills. And second, other jobs are disappearing and we want our kids to have good jobs. “

Lieutenant Governor Kate Marshall agreed with Kazmierski. She recalled a story about her father, who also grew up in the city.

“My father grew up in the worst part of this city and at one point they decided to build a tennis court there. After building the tennis court, the children used it to fight, ”she said. “The reason was that there were no balls, no tennis rackets and no tennis clothing. The point is, it’s not just about having space. It’s about the fact that they bring in teachers. It’s about the fact that they have built the space, that they have the equipment, that they have the coordinators. It’s about the fact that the resources are there for these children to see, touch and learn.

Marshall praised the collaborative effort between the university, the school district, Tesla and EDAWN to open and make the center operational.

“The community is coming together and that’s what has to happen to create these opportunities,” she said. “That’s why Reno-Sparks is doing it right. We can say, “Here is a problem”, and all parts of the community will come together and say, “Yes, we are going to solve this problem. “


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