UHV receives $30K grant for math, computer science programs

The University of Houston-Victoria will continue to host public events and youth camps focused on math, computer science and robotics for middle and high school students in the Crossroads, thanks to a $30,000 grant from Alcoa Foundation.

Kevin Riggs, location manager at Alcoa, Point Comfort said, “The Alcoa Foundation is proud of the longstanding relationship with UHV and excited to support of the events and camps that both enlighten and encourage area students to learn, grow, and explore mathematics, computer applications, and robotics.”

The grant will fund camps and events, including the annual UHV Math & Robotics Awareness Day and competitions, as well as an after-school robotics course for high school students and five summer camps. The summer camps include a robotics camp, a mathematics camp, a computing camp for middle school girls, a computer programming camp for middle school students and a virtual data science boot camp.

Courtney Middleton-Sides

Alcoa Foundation has been a UHV supporter for more than 30 years, said Courtney Middleton-Sides, UHV senior director for corporate and foundation relations.

“We appreciate the generosity and continued support from Alcoa Foundation,” Sides said. “Alcoa Foundation believes in the value of education in our community and investing in education. Through this grant, UHV will be able to reach more students in the community and help them develop important math, science and robotics skills.”

For almost two years, the annual UHV Math & Robotics Awareness Day has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is scheduled for 2022 and will be hosted in person on the UHV campus, said Ricardo Teixeira, associate professor of mathematics and co-coordinator of the event.

Before the pandemic, 250 high school students from Victoria, Gonzales, DeWitt, Lavaca, Colorado, Wharton, Jackson, Calhoun, Goliad, Refugio, Aransas, Bee, Karnes and Matagorda counties would come to UHV to attend the annual Math & Robotics Awareness Day. During the event, students had the opportunity to compete in contests; attend sessions focused on math, computer science, robotics and technology; interact with members of UHVs’ math and science faculty; and visit booths set up by various groups and companies.

Students can win prizes during the computer science and mathematics competitions, and students who participate in the robotics camp will be able to showcase their robots during the event, said Amjad Nusayr, assistant professor of computer science and camp director.

Ricardo Teixeira

Students also had the opportunity to see demonstrations, including Teixeira’s “mathemagics” presentation, which showcases math being used in magic tricks. Math & Robotics Awareness Day also is a great opportunity for high school students to learn what UHV has to offer and what they can expect as a student, Teixeira said.

“One of the goals we have is to inspire the younger generation,” Teixeira said. “We want them to come to UHV for Math & Robotics Awareness Day, or attend a camp, and have fun learning and aspire to one day attend a university. These events open the horizon for students and can give them an idea of what kind of career path they want to take later in life.”

The summer camps and after-school robotics course are also scheduled to take place in mostly face-to-face formats. The camps also have been held virtually because of the pandemic. While campers were able to pick up robotics kits and follow along virtually, students will be able to meet UHV faculty and staff in person, and some campers may even have the chance to stay in the UHV residence halls during the summer for one of the camps.

Amjad Nusayr

“Students are introduced to design and programming concepts at an early stage using programs such as the EV3 robotics kits,” Nusayr said. “The students work from the ground up, incrementally learning several constructs in code and using their own unique designs in building robots.”

Teixeira is excited to bring area students back to the UHV campus and help inspire more to pursue fields and subjects in science, technology and math. The Math & Robotics Awareness Day is scheduled for April 22.

“We are thankful to the foundation for this grant, and with this grant, we will be able to go back to in-person events, which is very exciting,” Teixeira said. “We hope we are making a positive impact in our community because we believe the more educated a community is, the quality of life will improve. The entire community benefits from partnerships like UHV and Alcoa Foundation and we look forward to showing the youth what is possible.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Amber Aldaco