February 15, 2024

Robotics bill expands school grant eligibility, widens what funds can be used for

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House Bill 1233 would let competitive robotics programs use state grant money for materials to build robots. - Virginia Department of Education/Wikimedia Commons

House Bill 1233 would let competitive robotics programs use state grant money for materials to build robots.

Virginia Department of Education/Wikimedia Commons

A proposal to expand grant funding for robotics competition programs passed the Senate Education and Career Development Committee unanimously Wednesday.

House Bill 1233 would let robotics programs from all accredited Indiana schools apply for the grant and allow them to spend the grant money on supplies used to build robots.

The K-12 Robotics Competition Grant was created last year. Rep. Chuck Goodrich (R-Noblesville), the bill’s author, said about 75 robotics competition programs were ineligible for grants because of a mistake in the original law. The bill would make all accredited schools eligible.

“This section fixes the error to ensure all students or all accredited schools in Indiana may apply for the grant,” he said.

Goodrich also said the language about how grants can be used is too narrow. The current law only allows grants to be spent on competitions. He wants to let robotics programs use the grants to purchase materials.

“The original bill talked about the robot, the competition,” he said. “This also talks about the stuff you’ve got to buy to build the robots, so it gives more flexibility.”
 

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Some lawmakers expressed concern about a provision in the bill that says robotics team mentors and coaches are not subject to collective bargaining.

Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) said he will introduce an amendment that would allow school employees who serve as robotics coaches to collectively bargain. Goodrich said he is against any such amendment.

Despite collective bargaining concerns, students and community members who testified on the bill were supportive. Indiana PTA legislative executive chair Rachel Burke said competitive robotics programs can change students’ lives.

“These programs build social skills,” she said. “They build soft skills as well as manufacturing skills, coding skills. They’re just absolutely wonderful, so we are always more than happy to throw our support behind this.”

The measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
 


Kirsten is Indiana Public Broadcasting's education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

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