DEED High Tech Kids Grant Will Expand Minnesota High School Robotics Teams

The Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, located at Bemidji State University, has been named a sub-awardee in a $730,000 grant awarded by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s High Tech Kids for Robotics Teams and STEM Internships program. The grant aims to expand high school robotics programs, introduce students to STEM careers and provide internship opportunities with a focus on underrepresented communities. 

The center will receive over $111,622 of the grant funding, which runs through June 30, 2025. During this period, the center will undertake two key initiatives: developing a robotics career pathway tool and coordinating STEM internships for Native American and rural high school students in northern and northwestern Minnesota. 

Developing a Robotics Career Pathway 

The center will create a clearly defined pathway for students transitioning from high school robotics teams to careers in robotics and automation. This pathway will outline the necessary courses, skills, and career options associated with the field. 

“Students who follow this guide will have a clear roadmap to a successful career in advanced manufacturing,” said Jeremy Leffelman, executive director of the center. “They’ll be able to see the connection between their current robotics activities and future career opportunities.” 

The career pathway will be comprehensive, individualized, and interactive, allowing students to tailor it to their specific interests and life goals. Robotics careers are diverse, encompassing roles like robotics technicians, programmers, engineers, and more. This program will help students explore these options and envision how their robotics skills can translate into rewarding careers. 

Coordinating STEM Internships 

The center will also coordinate STEM internships for Native American and rural high school students in northern and northwestern Minnesota, focusing on Beltrami, Mahnomen and Cass Counties, which are home to the Leech Lake, White Earth and Red Lake American Indian reservations, in addition to other northwestern counties in Minnesota. 

These internships will connect students with local manufacturing employers, allowing them to build skills, develop professional relationships, and gain exposure to manufacturing careers. Students will work with local manufacturers to choose micro-internships (10-20 hours) for a brief introduction to manufacturing or full internships (more than 30 hours) that take place during the summer or school year. All student internships will be paid, with funding from the grant covering student compensation. This program is open to all high school students, including those attending homeschool, public, private and charter schools, who are interested in manufacturing internships. 

Upon completion of the internship, students can take advantage of the grant funding to test for and receive the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Certified Production Technician credential, which validates the core skills and knowledge needed for frontline production roles nationwide. 

Employers who choose to participate in the program, will receive employer support funding to host interns and gain access to a pool of skilled and dedicated potential employees. The specific structure of each internship will be determined by participating manufacturers to ensure a good fit for their needs. These grant-funded internships are a way for manufacturers to provide valuable manufacturing experience to high school students, at a minimal cost.  

“We are in the process of connecting high school students with area manufacturers,” Leffelman said. “This program is one step in a larger effort to place interested students in high-paying, in-demand manufacturing jobs in Minnesota. This internship program will benefit students, manufacturers, and the state’s manufacturing sector as a whole for years to come.” 

For More Information

All manufacturers, high schools, and students interested in learning more about the internship program can contact Jeremy Leffelman, executive director of the Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, at or (218) 755-4222. 

About the Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence 

Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence is one of eight Centers of Excellence throughout Minnesota State, the state college and university system that was developed to serve the needs of industry through education and outreach. The Center is located at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minn., and is an innovative, collaborative effort between education and industry to recruit, educate, and train workers for dynamic careers in advanced manufacturing. The Center collaborates with industry, education, and workforce development partners to foster innovation, enhance skills, and establish career pathways in advanced manufacturing. 

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