Funding to expand robotics and engineering education in Allegany County

Nov. 25—CUMBERLAND, Md. — Allegany County Public Schools will soon have a new space to establish a high school competitive robotics team.

U.S. Rep. David Trone and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, all Maryland Democrats, this week announced funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, and state and local governments, for the REACT Institute for STEM Education Computational Thinking Initiative.

ARC is a regional economic development agency established by Congress in 1965 and comprised of governors from the 13 Appalachian states and a federal co-chair appointed by the president.

REACT stands for Robotics and Engineering in Allegany County — Together, Inc., and STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"Providing students with a high-quality STEM education will pay dividends for our state and ensure that Marylanders are prepared for future careers in engineering and technology fields," the lawmakers said via press release.

"Working with ARC and local leaders, we remain committed to investing in these young leaders and innovators in our state," they stated. "We look forward to seeing the incredible opportunities this program will offer to Maryland students for years to come."

The funding, which includes $170,000 from ARC and $233,000 from the state and Allegany County, is expected to help 150 students develop robotics skills.

REACT member Mike Fiscus said the organization thanks many steadfast supporters of the project.

"The Doug and Betsey Schwab Family Foundation, Steven and Amy Owens, and AES Warrior Run provided critical seed funding," Fiscus said via email.

Local and state government leaders, including Maryland Sen. George Edwards and Del. Mike McKay, Allegany County commissioners, Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and City Council, contributed to the required matching funds for the ARC grant, Fiscus said.

"It is clear that our community is unified in its vision of providing our youth with world class STEM learning opportunities," he said.

"REACT looks forward to many exciting days at RISE," Fiscus said of the REACT Institute for STEM Education.

ACPS Chief Academic Officer Kim Green Kalbaugh said the funds will help expand access and opportunities for students to develop advanced skills through applied practice in robotics, engineering and coding.

"This is incredible news," she said via email. "Students will build communication skills, critical thinking skills, and collaborative skills — all essential skills in STEM fields."

For several years, REACT has worked to acquire a designated space for robotics teams to compete at the highest levels, Kalbaugh said.

"Through this generous funding, that vision will soon be a reality for Allegany County," she said.

Teresa McMinn is the Digital Editor for the Cumberland Times-News. She can be reached at 304-639-2371 or tmcminn@times-news.com.