WILMINGTON, DE—Dickinson High School’s Robotics Laboratory is an incubator where kids learn and use engineering and software skills to work with Lego and Erector Set-like creations they design and build. An outgrowth of the school’s STEM program, the robotics course began in 2010. Only a handful of kids enrolled the first year, but now about 100 of Dickinson’s 600 kids take a robotics class.

Walking through the school, one can’t help but notice the two fluorescent yellow mechanical creatures, reports Cris Barrish for the public media organization WHYY. The creatures are two high-speed FANUC Robots designed for an increasingly automated present and future.

“We like to call this room the fish tank,’’ says Dickinson junior Jeremy Nolan, referring to the big windows allowing those passing by to see the robotics classroom. “It’s really a magnet for our school because our things are more engineering and robotics oriented than other schools.”

Dickinson’s eight-year-old robotics program continues attracting—and redirecting—kids like Nolan to the traditional public school near Pike Creek.

“Robotics has always been something I’m more interested in, because I enjoy the technology and the building aspect of things and I figured it would be a great path into computer programming,’’ Nolan says. “Because I was going to pursue computer science, but I decided later on in the program to switch to a more robotics field.”

While a handful of other Delaware schools have robotics clubs, Dickinson is the only one with a formal curriculum. Teacher Shawn Bowser says that robotics is a field that synthesizes knowledge from a handful of critical academic disciplines.

“They take robotics to help them with other things. Like auto mechanics or engineering or architecture,” Bowser says. “And that’s the nice thing about robotics. Robotics is all-inclusive. It covers the science, the math and engineering and the computer programming all in one nice neat little package.”

The courses teaches kids the basics and some advanced skills needed to design, build, operate and repair robots for use in the home, industry and even outer space.

“I love getting the kids involved, getting them thinking,’’ Bowser said. “Getting them to see the future. It’s not just about a program here. It’s about their future now. It’s about their career. It’s about going to college.”

Dickinson students have won awards in state robotics competitions and participated in national events. Nolan’s success in robotics, where his teams have won state competitions and competed in national ones, has helped earn him a partial scholarship at work Capital Technology University in Maryland.