Written by Brenda Everitt, Minneapolis Public Schools parent and resident
The robotics teams are a part of First Robotics, a national youth robotics organization, and have several competitive seasons, one of which just started on January 7. In order to compete, a robotics team needs to drive their robot around a large practice field that is set up especially for the competition with things built in like hoops, targets, and goals. The field that Minneapolis robotics teams have been using is located in North Minneapolis and is called the Minneapolis Urban Robotics Alliance field, or MURA. The field is inside Lincoln Junior High School, which closed in 2006.
Students at Patrick Henry High School founded MURA field in 2017. It was the recipient of a $20,000 grant from the State of Minnesota in 2019. It is used by students at Henry, Washburn, and Southwest High School among others. Since its establishment, MURA has put in a wireless internet system and also built up a wonderful makerspace that contains a wide range of tools. The makerspace has been used by Minneapolis robotics teams that do not own the equipment that is needed to build a robot for competition.
Robotics teams have been very happy with the MURA field and it has been a fantastic resource for kids from all over Minneapolis to learn STEM skills. It has been amazing.
Unfortunately, this year the Minneapolis Public Schools presented MURA with a new lease that it is estimated would cost around $30,000 - $40,000 per year to use the field.
Needless to say, the robotics teams cannot afford this expense.
As a Minneapolis resident, I would like for the school district to provide a place for kids, from all over the city and including Southwest, to learn STEM and participate in robotics. The kids that may be the hardest hit could be those that lose access to this resource in their neighborhood, especially those who rely upon the makerspace to build their robots.
Please consider contacting the school board to let them know that robotics is valued in Minneapolis Public Schools, and that providing robotics teams free access to a practice field should be a priority.