The Miami-Dade County Youth Fair hosted the third annual Digicon conference, an event that grew exponentially with competitions, participants, and spectators, and served as a testament to the growing opportunities in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics-focused curriculum) and digital learning. The annual event brings forward a series of challenges for participants, which test technical skills, logic, and creativity. United Data Technologies (UDT) has partnered with Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) and the Youth Fair to create a competition that bolsters interest in robotics and other STEAM fields.
“Miami-Dade County Public Schools is always at the cutting edge of technology and instruction,” said Diana Venturini, Director of Fund and Resource Development at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “It’s been a thrill to watch this initiative grow, from a demonstration of one, spider-like robot at the first showcase to today’s large-scale exhibit of the latest in robotics technology and coding skills.”
Over the course of multiple weekends during the Youth Fair Expo, more than 70 teams including Vex, Vex IQ, and FLL, competed in various programs. While some teams were challenged to test new ideas for robotics, other teams were asked to reverse engineer a problem and create a 3D-printed solution, which was then critiqued by judges on specific requirements. This year, the competition also introduced coding challenges.
“These types of competitions foster inventiveness,” said Pamela Wentworth, Trainer for Instructional Technology at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “While the kids are learning coding languages, they are also learning other skills such as sportsmanship, creativity, and other core values.”
This program came as a collaborative effort between all three organizations: MDCPS, the Youth Fair and UDT. Teachers and other education professionals served as coaches and built the curriculum for this program, and UDT was on site the day of the event providing t-shirts and materials. Before the event, UDT’s educational specialists partnered with the MDCPS team to develop the competition itself, stepping beyond the traditional sponsorship role.
The competition provided multiple opportunities for participants to demonstrate their knowledge of topical issues, such as animal conservation, through a series of challenges. This competition served as a way for students to showcase the skills they have learned throughout the year, and provided an opportunity for teamwork while highlighting creativity.
“DigiCon is exactly what the Youth Fair’s goal is all about and that is to Showcase Youth Achievement and commitment to education through student exhibits and competitions. In our DigiCon area at the Youth Fair parents are able to see the progress in their children in all age groups ranging from elementary to middle school to high school,” said Carol Douglass, Director of Competitive Exhibits at The Youth Fair. “These programs are designed to be an extension of the classroom and align themselves with current day-to-day curriculum. Each year during our annual 21-day fair, over 60,000 student exhibits, competitions, and performances are showcased and awarded over $330,000 in premiums and awards. DigiCon is growing in popularity and introducing students and the public to STEAM. This is a great partnership and we are seeing a growth in girls participating. I look forward to what’s next and with the dedicated team from MDCPS, UDT and The Youth Fair it’s going to be great!”
With each year that passes, the conference continues to grow in popularity. What started as a robotics competition for the high school level has expanded to include middle school-age children. Ultimately, the goal is to develop the conference to include children as young as third grade. Introducing students to STEAM early in their education will foster interest in STEAM-based careers and help students identify as scientists, engineers, and technologists with authentic, real-world experiential learning. Not only did younger children participate this year, but more girls were involved in individual and team competitions, reflecting the efforts of MDCPS to have more young girls interested in STEAM.
UDT is a proud sponsor of Digicon and MDCPS, and strives to be an effective partner in fostering the STEAM curriculum. For more information on UDT and their educational programs, please visit our site.