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Blugold mentors prepare area youth to compete in robotics competition

| Judy Berthiaume

Chippewa Valley area middle school students and their UW-Eau Claire Blugold Beginning mentors will compete in a robotics competition and participate in a first-of-its-kind STEAM Demo Day this month.

The activities will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 13, at DeLong Middle School in Eau Claire.

Fifteen teams from South, Menomonie and DeLong middle schools and the Boys & Girls Club — along with their Blugold mentors — will design and program robots to compete in the daylong robotics competition.

Students will be judged on their robot’s design, the robot’s ability to navigate a challenge course and teamwork.

The competition will run from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

During the April 13 event, AmeriCorps members also will facilitate interactive science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) activity stations.

The AmeriCorps Global Youth Service Day STEAM activities will run from 9 a.m.-noon, giving families opportunities to engage in a variety of interactive activities.

Families can learn to program a drone, navigate a challenge course with a Sphero Ball, build and program a robot, or create art using technology, says Abe Mamou, the Blugold Beginnings robotics intern and mentor who is coordinating the competition and demo.

“I’m excited to expand our robotics competition this year to include opportunities for youth and their parents to learn even more about science, technology, engineering, art and math through interactive projects in our STEAM Demo Area,” says Mamou, a senior economics and business major from Beaver Dam. “This addition will allow our Blugold Beginnings mentors to get even more youth in our community excited about robotics and STEAM projects.”

The events are among the many ways UW-Eau Claire and Blugold Beginnings are working to decrease the opportunity gap in STEM fields, says Jodi Thesing-Ritter, executive director for diversity and inclusion at UW-Eau Claire.

“Through the AmeriCorps grant from Serve Wisconsin, we are reaching more youth than ever with Blugold Beginnings programming and outreach,” Thesing-Ritter says. “We are proud of the work of our UW-Eau Claire student mentors. With the support of our ECASD and Menomonie middle school and Boys & Girls Club partners, along with area businesses and foundations, we are prepared to host this exciting competition and the activity stations.

“The future of STEM programming is bright in the Chippewa Valley thanks to this collective leadership and support.”

The April 13 events are possible thanks to the financial and human resources provided by numerous businesses and organizations, including Northwestern Bank, 3M Gives, the Otto Bremer Trust, Lasker Jewelers, Jamf Software, TTM Technologies, Charter Bank, Eau Claire Sport Warehouse, TDK Hutchinson Technology Inc. and Eau Claire County Extension 4-H Youth Development.

UW-Eau Claire’s Blugold Beginnings organization and the Eau Claire Area School District are co-hosts of the April 13 robotics competition and STEAM Demo Day events.

All activities are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Jodi Thesing-Ritter at 715-836-3651 or

Photo caption: Chippewa Valley youth will compete — with the help of their Blugold mentors — in a robotics competition this month.