The program will support STEM education for Clarke County students

The University of Georgia and the local nonprofit Chess & Community have launched a new partnership that uses robotics to enhance STEM education opportunities for promising Clarke County students.

Over the next three years, the university will provide financial assistance and on-campus space to support Pawn Accelerator — a community-centered robotics and chess program that educates students about the foundations of technology and innovation, nurturing skills that they will need for future careers in STEM fields, including literacy in robotics and engineering.

“The Pawn Accelerator program helps Clarke County students develop a wide range of essential skills,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This new partnership will further strengthen our relationship with our community partners across Athens-Clarke County and expand the impact of STEM education in our local community.”

“The next technological innovation to transform this community and the world could be buried in the mind of one of these kids, but we’ll never know if we don’t at the very least expose them to available resources,” said Lemuel “Life” LaRoche, executive director of Chess & Community, which piloted the program in fall 2020. “This is what Pawn Accelerator does. It allows youth to interface with the latest technology and challenges them to reimagine the world.”

The program has three progressive tiers that ultimately promote design thinking and innovation. These tiers are:

As part of the partnership, the university will make space available for students in locations dedicated to sparking innovation – such as the new Innovation Hub and Studio 225, the home of the UGA Entrepreneurship Program.

Founded in Athens, Chess & Community is dedicated to empowering young leaders in Northeast Georgia. It provides real-world knowledge through positive youth engagement in critical thinking, civic engagement, peer learning and cultural experiences.

The new initiative joins nearly 50 existing UGA programs and partnerships launched in recent years that support the Clarke County School District. Others include:

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