NEWARK, NJ - National Robotics Week is coming to a close but for the Newark Public Schools district and five KIPP charter schools in the city, expanded robotics and computer science education is only scratching the surface.

Amazon and FIRST, an international nonprofit STEM program, announced today that 100 schools serving students from underrepresented and underserved communities across 21 states will receive a $10,000 Amazon Future Engineer Robotics Grant for the upcoming school year.

The Newark Public School district, five KIPP New Jersey charter schools in Newark, and one school in Jersey City are receiving the  Amazon Future Engineer Robotics Grant. They include:

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  • Newark Public School District
  • KIPP TEAM Academy
  • KIPP BOLD Academy
  • KIPP Rise Academy
  • KIPP Newark Community Prep
  • KIPP Newark Lab High School
  • Ollie Culbreth Jr. School PS14

More than half of the schools selected in the country where KIPP charter schools. KIPP Newark Community Prep and KIPP Newark Lab High School are set to open grades five and nine on the same campus in August.

The schools will also receive support to launch FIRST robotics teams, professional development for teachers to learn about robotics, and a tour of a local Amazon fulfillment center to experience the technology behind the scenes.

The district already has Newark FIRST robotics teams. Nearly 200 students from 20 schools participated in the Newark March Robotics Madness competition in March and teams were supported by the Overdeck Family Foundation and the Panasonic Foundation.

 “Through the FIRST initiative, our students are expanding their knowledge of science and technology, and robotics development, and their use in our lives today and in the future,” Newark Schools Superintendent Roger León said in a statement. “Our goal is to create the framework for students to use what they learn now and use it throughout their academic career and beyond.”

Computer science is a fast-growing profession within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer-science related jobs available, but only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs.

Only 10% of STEM graduates study computer science, with a tiny minority from underprivileged backgrounds. The program wants to change this trend with early exposure to computer science. Amazon Future Engineer is a childhood-to-career program to inspire, educate, and prepare children and young adults from underrepresented and underserved communities to pursue careers in computer science. The program launched in November 2018 and aims to educate more than 10 million students nationwide.

Improved access for computer science curriculum has been a priority for the district and state.

In January 2018, New Jersey passed a law requiring every public high school, starting this fall, to offer a computer science class. And in October, Governor Murphy committed $2 million to increase the number of public high schools making advanced computer science classes available to students with priority consideration for schools that receive Title I funds.

Newark Public Schools announced its partnership with Girls Who Code to establish coding clubs in 24 middle schools, providing an introduction to coding skills to more than 3,000 girls this spring. The district allocated money in the 2019-2020 budget toward technology upgrades to expand their computer program, granting more one-to-one access for students to have a Chromebook, and have a forthcoming partnership with Verizon Innovative Learning at Hawkins Street, William H. Horton, and Hawthorne Avenue schools.

“Today, technology is so advanced that we must keep with the times. Robotics plays a critical role in the structure of our society, from defense to the health industry, and beyond,” Josephine C. Garcia, President of the Newark Board of Education (NBOE) said in a statement. “I am so proud of the district for demonstrating to everyone that our children are exposed to opportunities that redefine what our schools are becoming now.”