In a penny pinching move, the University of Florida is eliminating its entire computer science department to save $1.7 million, while at the same time, increasing its athletic budget by $2 million to $99 million – see here.
How did the world get so topsy turvy? The first time I attended a large robotics event (Worlds at the Georgia Dome), it struck me that the floor and pits were full (the students were over 9000!), but the stadium was nearly empty – just a few hundred spectators and scouts, mostly affiliated with the competing teams. In contrast, my high school state basketball championship had a sell-out crowd of over 10,000 watching 10 guys run around on the court below. At the time, as I reflected on that the fact that attendees at robotics Worlds were all participants, rather than spectators, I thought, “This is as it should be.” But now I’m not so sure.
Involvement in the robotics world is deep – there is fierce loyalty and dedication. It reaches high – the growth in the quality of robots over Vex’s 7-year history is amazing. But what I think is lacking in robotics (and STEM in general) is that it does not reach wide enough. Without the ability to broaden the base of STEM loyalists to even educated people (like college presidents), I fear that we will see STEM education pushed to the bottom of the priority list, with even more short-sighted cuts to come.