The pandemic accelerated development of artificial intelligence and automation. Now students as young as pre-K are learning to code.

The pandemic forced laboratories, factories, and warehouses around the world to replace humans with robots. As the world reopens, robots are sticking around. Chicago hotels already have the help of robots that deliver amenities to guests? rooms. Recently, at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, Segway Robotics unveiled a service robot designed for restaurants. This autonomous robot is designed to support touchless food delivery and help restaurants lower labor costs. Illinois manufacturing also became more automated during the pandemic, enabling businesses to increase their output even as hiring human workers became more difficult.

But these robots, and the artificial intelligence used to program them, need to be designed and managed by humans. Recent data from Zip Recruiter and ADP found that the average AI robotics engineer in Chicago earns about $90,000 a year in a job that usually requires experience in programming languages and an undergraduate or a master?s degree in computer science or engineering.

We at CPASS recommend that?communities focus on these strategies to help serve diverse student communities:

Connect robotics with science and math. Using robots to teach science and math engages students and makes abstract concepts real. Math topics like algebra and geometry are relevant in robotics. To figure out how a robot is going to interact with its environment, students need to be able to apply skills such as measuring and graphing dimensions and finding the shortest distance between two points.

Get robotics experience. Programs such as the FIRST Robotics Competition provide opportunities for Illinois students in pre-K through grade 12 to explore science and engineering. In Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the FIRST Robotics Competition is run by The Office of Computer Science, which also holds regular programs that connect students and parents with industry leaders?.

Learn to code. There are a multitude of free coding programs available for learners of every age. FreeCodeCamp offers free online courses with certifications for coding languages and web design. Career Karma reviews the highest-quality free online coding bootcamps for aspiring programmers. Students and teachers in grades K?12 can access free coding classes and programs on free sites such as and Khan Academy. There are many free coding games that students can use to practice and apply their skills.

Earn degrees. Chicagoland universities have excellent robotics programs. Independent organization EduRank lists the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University as two of the top robotics programs in the world. The University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago, and Northern Illinois University also boast strong undergraduate and graduate robotics programs.

At CPASS Foundation, we are here to support traditionally underrepresented middle school, high school, and college students by introducing them to STEM subjects, majors, and training. We provide guidance and thought leadership to help create opportunities for students in Illinois to participate in STEM-related fields.?Contact Dr. Stephen Martin?to learn more about how you can partner with CPASS Foundation to create more opportunities for Black and other underrepresented students in the Chicago area.