Press release: Peninsula STEM Gym provides practice opportunities for Hampton Roads youth robotics teams

Intentional Innovation Foundation announces the founding of the Peninsula STEM Gym, a place for student robotics teams to develop competition robots and have real-world engineering experiences that will inspire a lifelong interest in science and math. Establishment of the Peninsula STEM Gym is made possible in part by a generous Community Knights GIFT Grant.

Located in central Newport News, the Peninsula STEM Gym offers local student robotics teams a 2,500 square foot practice area for testing robot functionality against the same field elements as they’ll encounter at real competitions. The facility will enable teams to gain driving practice, discover ways to iterate and improve their robot designs, and become better prepared to compete against other top Virginia teams as well as on the world stage. Four Peninsula student robotics teams, with an average of 20 students each, plan to use the STEM Gym to practice for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in spring 2019.

By enabling these students to better practice their sport in a STEM Gym, we increase the likelihood that they can “turn pro” upon graduation, entering career fields which reward the communication and leadership skills that they learn through existing mentor-based robotics competitions.

“This is going to fundamentally change our approach to both software development and also drive team practice” says Todd Ferrante, drive team coach of Triple Helix Robotics, the competitive robotics team at Menchville High School in Newport News. “It really is a game changer.” Donald Williams, the head teacher and coach of the Phantom Mentalists, Phoebus High School’s team in Hampton, says: “The students need practice driving the robot to perform well in competitions, just like any other sport. FRC is a sport like any other at the high school level. It is just a sport for the budding engineers, programmers and manufacturing.”

Intentional Innovation Foundation, Inc. transforms students and our community into evangelists for science and technology by providing them life-changing opportunities to experience these subjects as a thrilling, challenging competition. The Newport News nonprofit organization recognizes that developing the future engineering workforce requires a culture shift that makes engineering “cool” again.

Community Knights, Inc. is committed to identifying the needs of small local nonprofit and public school organizations as well as the populations they serve and finding innovative ways to help them meet these needs collaboratively. The nonprofit organization is also dedicated to identifying service gaps for underserved populations within our community and, through the development of a nonprofit incubator, support and educate start up organizations to fill unmet needs within the Virginia Peninsula community.

The Peninsula STEM Gym is located at 11516 Jefferson Ave Unit #2, Newport News, VA 23601.

Those wishing to get involved with the Peninsula STEM Gym are invited to attend the first Open House to be held on Saturday, November 17, 2018 from 2pm to 6pm at the facility.

Community members wishing to contribute financially to the Peninsula STEM Gym are invited to sponsor the purchase of a chair. Task chairs will be grouped around workbenches lining one wall of the facility, providing a comfortable working environment for students to explore concepts in group problem-solving and teamwork. Sponsors of chairs will be invited to attach customized brass name plaques to their chairs at the inaugural open house of the STEM Gym on Saturday, November 17, 2018.