NCET Biz Tips: Kids, robots, and the innovation revolution

The University of Nevada, Reno K-12 Robotics Center provides a pivotal shift toward an interactive, hands-on approach to learning that fosters creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

The University of Nevada, Reno K-12 Robotics Center provides a pivotal shift toward an interactive, hands-on approach to learning that fosters creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Courtesy

Our educational landscape is undergoing a significant transformation and Reno is leading the way.

Today, we live in an era where technology seems to be integrated into every facet of our daily lives. Robotics and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) learning are at the forefront of this revolution. Students from kindergarten through 12th grade need to be prepared for a future where digital literacy is not just valued but essential.

Stepping up is the University of Nevada, Reno K-12 Robotics Center, which provides a pivotal shift toward an interactive, hands-on approach to learning that fosters creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

For many of us who are part of an older generation, this approach is a departure from traditional memorization techniques, engaging students in a way that textbooks alone can’t do.

A short history of the UNR K-12 Robotics Center is in order. The historic Southside Studio, formally the Southside School Annex, is located across the street from the UNR Innevation Center in downtown Reno. Operated by UNR since 2019, the Southside Studio’s upstairs space was remodeled with Tesla’s support and transformed into the UNR K-12 Robotics Center. New additions to the building include a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) field with additional room for FIRST LEGO League teams and FIRST Tech Challenges (VEX field).

The K-12 Robotics Center aims to cultivate STEAM education and innovation within our local Reno community by offering a dynamic space for students of all ages to engage in hands-on robotic experiences.

Why STEAM learning? It has been proven that the introduction of robotics and STEAM learning can significantly impact students’ cognitive development and processing abilities. Students learn through doing, which research suggests is far more effective than passive learning methods. The K-12 Robotics Center challenges students to apply their knowledge in math, science, and the arts to solve real-world problems, thereby reinforcing their learning and understanding of these subjects.

Why robotics and not something else? Robotics promotes the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. As students design, build, and program robots, they encounter and must overcome various challenges. The process requires them to think critically. That encompasses the problems they face, the multiple solutions to be considered, and applying logical reasoning to test their ideas. These are skills not just vital to academic success, but highly sought after in the workplace. Finally, social skills are essential for personal and professional success. Robotics learning fosters teamwork and collaboration.

Success stories? The UNR K-12 Robotics Center has many, including students who have gone on to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields after participating in robotics programs in their secondary education.

K-12 Robotics Center teams (Virginia City Silver Circuits and Team Incognito) have achieved notable success in regional and national competitions, showcasing the talent and dedication of UNR students and mentors.

In 2017, Rachel Salas, director of UNR’s Center for Learning and Literacy, began the Center’s FIRST LEGO League robotics program, comprised of students in grades 3-6. Today, she and UNR student mentors coach the Wolf Pack Bots. The team has reached the Championship round six times and consistently earns awards.

Bill Leonard 

 Have you ever asked yourself what you or the company you may work for is most proud of? The K-12 Robotics Center has. The Center is most proud of the impact it has made by inspiring students to learn combined with a love of robotics.

Kerry Thompson, the primary organizer of and mentor to the FRYE Robotics team, may have said it best.
“It really changes a kid’s life, and it has nothing to do with the robot the kids build or whether or not it works. It has to do with what they learn and what they can accomplish,” Thompson said.

UNR and the K-12 Robotics Center prefer to look at challenges as opportunities for growth. One of the biggest challenges facing the K-12 Robotics Center is ensuring equitable access to robotics education for all students, regardless of socioeconomic background or geographic location. Our state of Nevada needs education funding to support these programs, including funding for dedicated employees to coach the teams.

It could be said that robotics in education mirrors the evolution of technology itself. This progression has made robotics more accessible and relevant to students of all ages, sparking an interest in STEAM fields that might have otherwise remained dormant.

The UNR K-12 Robotics Center serves as a catalyst for unlocking a world of possibilities where students learn to 1) think like innovators, 2) approach problems like engineers, and 3) embrace challenges with the creativity of artists. It’s like having the power of three rolled into one robotics education journey.

If you want to learn more about the innovative UNR K-12 Robotics Center, you have an opportunity right around the corner at NCET Tech Wednesday on April 10.

Sign up early for the UNR K-12 Robotics Center presentation from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. During your visit, you will…

• Hear about the building and testing of robots

• Watch a robotics scrimmage

• Tour the second floor of the renovated Southside Studio

• Connect with others to learn how to promote creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and active engagement among students

• Learn how to get involved and become an advocate for robotics programs.

So don't be late. Register now by visiting

NCET produces education and networking events to help people explore business and technology.

Bill Leonard is the VP of Communications at NCET and a ghostwriter for industry thought leaders who need engaging written content to amplify their brand. Connect with Bill at Ghostwriting Ink on LinkedIn.


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