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Nonprofit Robotics for All enables students to expand their educational horizons

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many organizations to acclimate to the circumstances by working virtually. Student-run Robotics for All has not only adapted, but also seized the opportunity by making online learning part of its business model.

“When we’re all able to return to in-person classes, it’s going to be a hybrid growth model,” said Max Goetz, founder and CEO of Robotics for All, which got its start in Mountain View. “We’re not going to stop our online classes. We have too many volunteers and too many students and locations we’d be unable to serve with in-person classes, but we are going to anticipate a slow return to in-person classes initially, and that’s going to be really exciting.”

The nonprofit’s mission is to not only provide robotics and other STEM-based educational programs to students at no charge, but also to get those in middle school and above involved in the multi-level organization.

“We strive to allow students and volunteers to achieve their full potential,” said Goetz, a freshman at Georgetown University who graduated from Gunn High School last year. “And I think this mission kind of really reflects that. We’re about making sure that each student can get the educational opportunities they want.”

With an emphasis on computer science, Robotics for All launched its first program in April 2017 at Mariano Castro Elementary School in Mountain View.

“I think that reading and math are the two most essential skills you need in any job; I don’t disagree with that,” Goetz said. “But I think some sort of computer background is a third thing that’s also really, really important to whatever job you do in the future.”

Inspiring students

While the organization started off teaching only robotics, it has expanded into other areas. It now offers programs such as Tutoring for All and Mentoring for All, with the latter pairing high school students with college mentors who can give them advice and guidance for an entire school year.

“It’s crazy to see how much we grew once we did go virtual, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of that,” said Mentoring for All president Aarushi Khandelwal, a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin. “And I just think, to me, what rings the loudest for me when it comes to this mission is when I’m talking to principals and they tell us that this would be the first STEM program that they run at their school. That’s the most rewarding part about being able to work with an organization like this – you’re so close to the impact that we’re having.”

Khandelwal added that the organization’s teachers also realize the profound impact they are making on their students.

“We do tell our teachers that the main thing that they’re trying to do in that class is engage, excite and inspire,” Khandelwal said. “If you can inspire our students who want to learn more, that’s more than we could ever want to achieve.”

While it can be a challenge to engage the students initially, Robotics for All vice president Garrett Tieng said, it is rewarding to see them realize that robotics and programming are activities they can get involved with.

“Just seeing how they go from not quite sure about this class and very uncertain to waiting at the door early before class starts to come in and help us set up the kits … really brings me endless happiness and satisfaction to know that we are showing them stuff they would not be able to have access to otherwise,” said Tieng, a freshman at Case Western Reserve University. “Just to see the spark in their eyes appear, because of what we’re doing, to me that is always just the best part of it.”

For more information on Robotics for All, visit roboticsforall.net.

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