K-64 brings education, business, and government together to connect people of all ages with the skills needed to fill jobs and build careers in Catawba County.

Are you interested in robotics and would like hands-on, practical experience? Look no further than the Catawba County Mechanical Minds Team! FIRST Robotics Competition Team #6639 is looking for new members of high school students that will build industrial robots from scratch – in just eight weeks! Team members will gain experience in CAD, programming, electrical/pneumatic components, small tools, logistics, fundraising, public speaking, event coordination, outreach, and teamwork. Would you like to be part of their team?

The Mechanical Minds Robotics Team is open to all students from Catawba County, Newton-Conover and Hickory City high schools and is looking to grow their 16 returning members into 30 high school participants for this year’s team. They are holding two open houses this week for prospective members on September 19th and 20th from 5:30 – 7:30 at CVCC, in the Paap Education Building, room 143. Join the open houses to learn more about the organization, growing your STEM skills and becoming a team member. A new season requires new team members and more mentors from engineering, automation, and programming.  

The Mechanical Minds team had a successful, eventful past season with 21 students participating from several local high schools with 10 engineers and parents mentoring the team. After learning the necessary skills to build competitive robots and attending competitions at UNC-Asheville and Charlotte, the team continued with presentations at STEM events with the schools, STEM Trek, Gravity Games, and other venues to help generate awareness of the team and STEM activities. Coming into the new season this summer, returning members improved their skillsets by working with both Onshape CAD and JAVA. Further, 2 graduate team members decided to pursue higher education paths related to the Mechanical Minds skillsets, including one student studying at CVCC.  

These skillsets being cultivated through programs like Mechanical Minds are vital for many areas of our business community. As the workforce develops and adapts to recent technologies in the workplace, it is crucial for prospective employees to stay on top of the latest technology. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton MSA has the highest rate in North Carolina for careers exposed to automation. Now more than ever it is important to build a workforce with skills that are relevant in an increasingly automated world and there is a need for training programs to help workers transition to new roles or industries.  

 Multiple institutes in Catawba County provide training and education needed to fill these roles. CVCC offers two-year programs in engineering technologies, with focuses on mechatronics, electronics, or computers. At other higher levels, Lenoir Rhyne University offers a Bachelor of Science program in Engineering Physics with a traditional course of study and a Biophysics course of study, while Appalachian State, which has a satellite campus in Hickory, offers an Engineering Physics Master of Science Program. A career in STEM can begin with organizations like Mechanical Minds and can lead to higher education and a variety of career pathways for students.