AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

David Burton
Civic Communications Specialist
2400 S. Scenic Ave.
Springfield, MO 65807

November 18, 2018

Sponsors Needed to Expand and Support Mizzou's
Robotics Program at Weaver Elementary in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Melissa Plunk, Numeracy Coach at Weaver Elementary School in Springfield, has seen the difference University of Missouri's robotics program can make on a student's work.

Now in her third year of leading the program at Weaver, Plunk says students show improvement in measurements, decimals, problem-solving, general math and communication.

"The program helps students with their perseverance," said Plunk. "In math, it is so easy for students to get frustrated and give up. Every summer ... I remember the improvement I see in these student's perseverance, and I say yes to doing the program again."

Weaver Robotics has 18 fourth and fifth-grade students this year. They meet weekly to program robots and prepare for the annual Robotics Design Challenge, also known as the LEGO Challenge, hosted at the University of Missouri in April.

Satish Nair, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Bioengineering Departments at the University of Missouri, started the Robotics Design Challenge 15 years ago. The goal of the LEGO Challenge, he said, is to introduce engineering and math to kids before they become scared of it.

Nair said children make up their minds on math as early as elementary school.

"Somewhere along the line I think kids, boys, and girls, decide that math or even other STEM classes, are not for them," Nair said. "We'd like to dispel that myth by introducing math in a fun, accessible way."


The MU Elementary Engineering Academy (EEA) aims to initiate the TECH4K5 robotics programs, an after-school STEM program, in elementary schools throughout Missouri.

Elementary STEM education introduces students to robotics, sensors, and programming, as well as neuroscience, physics, and communication arts. STEM includes the academic disciplines that will enable students to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence and make sense of that gathered information.

The University of Missouri invests in this program several different ways. For starters, MU provides curriculum and support for the program to ensure longevity.

The university also coordinates the program as a group activity engaging other elementary teachers in Missouri to provide professional development.

University professionals also conduct monthly webinars for participating teachers and on-campus workshops once or twice a year.

Of course, the university also organizes the annual MU Robotics Design Challenge that brings together schools from across Missouri.


"Once we have a sponsorship model at one school, we want to replicate that in other rural and Title I schools," said Nair. "This local funding, along with larger statewide sponsors, are needed to help sustain the program."

MU campus staff, with help from University of Missouri Extension specialists across the state, are currently seeking sponsors for local robotics chapters. An annual membership requires an investment of $1,500 to the university but all funds will be used to run the local program.

For information on how to sponsor the robotics program at Weaver Elementary in Springfield, or other robotics teams in Missouri, contact Dr. Satish S. Nair at the University of Missouri by telephone at 573-882-2964 or by email at

A variety of photos taken at a meeting of the Weaver Robotics Club can be found online at:

Source: David Burton, (417) 881-8909

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