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A Broader Vision for BadgerBots

I know exactly when I fell in love with technology. I was in 5th grade and took a summer programming class at the University of Wisconsin. We learned BASIC on a Commodore Vic 20. After a week, I had a program that counted down from 10 to 1 (each number was a different color, of course), made a noise, and said “Blast Off!” It was awesome—I was hooked!

In high school, I signed up for a programming class. The teacher assigned a project each Monday—I’d finish it that same night. Then, I’d spend the rest of the week in class learning more on my own. I didn’t want to stop!

Today, I serve as Director of Global Software Platforms for Gilson, a multinational biotechnology instrumentation firm. And I can see clearly how my path to STEM success was lined by special people and opportunities. My father was an engineer and talked about what he did for a living. That summer class I took? It gave me the chance to explore the possibilities. My high school teacher saw a spark in me and gave me the structure, support, and space I needed to grow.

When I talk to my contemporaries, the details are different but the arc is the same. As they traveled from awareness to excitement to passion for STEM, special people and opportunities made their path possible.

One colleague said, “The best way to become a robotics engineer is to have parents who were in robotics.” He was joking, but there’s an unfortunate truth in that. Right now, that path from awareness to excitement to passion is not accessible to everyone. A kid can’t get to passion if they don’t first see how STEM is relevant to their life.

Why does it matter? Because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that STEM occupations will grow by almost 11% over the next decade—and they pay well, with a median annual wage of over $95,000 in 2021. To access these opportunities in the future, kids need a starting point on their personal STEM journeys.

BadgerBots has been around for over a decade, and we’ve done a lot of work to create meaningful and memorable STEM experiences for kids across Wisconsin. But our community has historically been made up of kids and families who already know about robotics and STEM.

So it’s time for us to broaden our scope.

Starting now, our vision is a world where every kid discovers a love for STEM—and knows that they can pursue a future in it. And our mission is to shape future science & engineering professionals by connecting kids to STEM experiences that spark awareness, drive excitement, and cultivate passion.

We’ve already started this important work by launching a community engagement program in 2022. In the next year, you’ll see us continue to grow and change.

We’re expanding that community engagement team to serve more kids. We’re bringing our popular summer camp program to Madison College, on the east side of Dane County. We’re further developing our in-house robotics teams and partnering with community centers to set up LEGO robotics teams in underserved neighborhoods. And we’ve adjusted our web presence to better match our new focus.

As we look to grow our impact in the community, we’re looking for individuals and organizations who share our vision of helping every kid discover a love for STEM. If you’d like to get involved, we’d love to talk with you.

In the meantime, stay tuned!


Steve DeCabooter

BadgerBots Board President


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