Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ Program Overview
What is it?
BotsIQ is a manufacturing workforce development program disguised as a high school robotics competition. The Smart Sport is designed to provide high school students with an exciting, hands-on team experience while they learn about the pathways to a rewarding career in manufacturing.
Why is it unique?
- BotsIQ is a sport where all participants have the potential for a career in manufacturing.
- Designing, building and testing a Bot is a fascinating real-world professional manufacturing experience.
- Every participating high school is paired with a manufacturing company to serve as their industry advisor.
Why is it important?
There is a skills and interest gap in manufacturing. Companies in southwestern Pennsylvania cannot find qualified workers to fill their open positions. This problem is compounded by a rapidly aging workforce.
- 40% of the manufacturing workforce will be at retirement age by 2020.
- 130,000 positions in manufacturing will be open within the next 10 years.
- 90% of parents recognize that a strong manufacturing base is critical to the US economy, but only 30% of parents would support their children in pursuing a career in manufacturing.
- 12% of families in our region consider manufacturing as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) career.
How does the program work?
Under the expert guidance of their high school teachers and industry mentors, students work in teams during the academic year to design and build 15lb Bots to battle in a gladiator-style competition.
BotsIQ holds preliminary competitions at local community colleges in March for teams to be able to test their Bots and battle for seedings. The Finals Competition is held in April at the California University of Pennsylvania Convocation Center. Teams not only earn points for their arena battles, they are evaluated by industry experts on their engineering binder. The team’s documentation binder points weigh heavily in the crowning of the competition’s Grand Champion.
The competitions are something that the students can get excited about, but in actuality, they are developing technical skills in mechanical and electrical engineering, machining and welding along with 21st century skills in critical thinking, project management, communication and teamwork.
BotsIQ has been successful in our initial mission—raising awareness of manufacturing careers— but there’s still work to do. We understand the importance of attracting, preparing and empowering the next generation of manufacturing workers. The simple truth: manufacturing provides rewarding career opportunities and well-staffed companies become thriving companies. That is good for our region, our state and our country.