A fifth-grade teacher in the rural northern Indiana community of Nappanee is doing his part to fuel the state’s STEM pipeline. In the heart of Amish Country, Jake Simons not only created a robotics program from scratch, against all odds he built a program that won the 2019 robotics world championship. Of the 12 teams that made the finals that year, 10 were from China…two from Nappanee. Simons say the impact of the program extends well beyond the classroom.

“I would say the biggest impact I see is the confidence building,” said Simons, who had no knowledge of robotics when he took on an assignment that he thought would be temporary. “Think about the long-lasting effects of that, you just have a generation of confident people who are going to become our next world leaders and problem solvers.”

Simons, who received this year’s TechPoint Mira Award for Tech Educator of the Year, talked about the factors that helped create the award-winning program on this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.

The tradition of robotics excellence is continuing at Wa-Nee Community Schools. Simons says he’ll take ten teams to the VEX Robotics World Championship this month in Dallas, the most of any Indiana school district.