Four children putting together a small robot with parts from a red container sitting on a table.

The Nuts and Bolts of STEM in Moldova .

As they are introduced to educational robotics in the classroom, youth in Moldova are inspired to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

An array of sensors, batteries, motors, and cables lies before wide-eyed students. These children see the opportunity to build, tinker, and explore. But for educators, this is a long-term investment in the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals.

Today’s global economy demands STEM professionals who are critical thinkers and innovators, with practical experience in technology and engineering. But in Moldova, opportunities to embrace STEM are limited in the labor force and also in the classroom.

How can Moldova combat the shortage of skilled workers in STEM? By educating the future of the country’s economy — youth.

To nurture the next generation of STEM professionals, Moldova’s government, education, and business communities are making STEM improvement a national priority and tackling a number of challenges.

For one, traditional curricula lack an emphasis on information technology (IT), one of Moldova’s rapidly growing sectors. Furthermore, with fewer students studying STEM in university, the sector’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is faltering. The decline in STEM education in Moldova over recent years threatens the entire economy. So the Moldova Competitiveness Project (MCP), funded by USAID and implemented by Chemonics, is creating opportunities for young learners to experience STEM in the classroom and potentially as a career.

In partnership with the Moldovan Ministry of Education, MCP is introducing STEM in Moldova’s classrooms through educational robotics. Robotics captivates students with the exciting and hands-on application of science and coding. Across 76 educational institutions and seven libraries in Moldova, MCP is implementing RoboClub, an educational robotics initiative that brings real-world engineering challenges to the classroom.

“I dream to become an IT engineer and I know technology can change the world. Now, I just play with robots, but I am being challenged to create robots that will be of use for the entire society.”

Andrei Copaci, a 13-year old boy from Chisinau, Moldova

The RoboClub initiative, which started in 2014 as a small pilot in six schools, celebrates educational robotics as a path to embracing STEM. Through RoboClub, more than 2,000 children are attending robotics clubs and being prepared for STEM careers. Guided by their imaginations, tools, and teachers, they assemble robotics sets as part of their curriculum. The robotics sets enable students to build, program, and test real-life robotics technology. From understanding forces and motion to interpreting rotation sensor data, the students experience a fully functioning robotic system. For Andrei Copaci, a 13-year old boy from Chisinau, Moldova, this exposure to robotics inspired a passion for IT.

“I dream to become an IT engineer and I know technology can change the world,” says Andrei. “Now, I just play with robots, but I am being challenged to create robots that will be of use for the entire society.”

Catching children at a young age is key to creating a lifelong interest in these topics: Students like Andrei who have early exposure to robotics are twice as likely to major in science or engineering. STEM literacy is especially critical for Moldova’s IT sector, which currently employs more than 20,000 people and will need thousands more in the coming years to meet rising demand.

But among STEM professionals, women are sorely underrepresented. The RoboClub initiative breaks this trend by offering girls practical experience that shapes their professional development. Through educational robotics, girls not only build creativity and problem-solving skills, but also gain the confidence to pursue a STEM career. The initiative gives girls early exposure to STEM and also the opportunity to turn play into practice through robotics competitions and summer camps.

MCP supported the Association for IT Development to organize the second edition of the GirlsGoIT Summer Camp in July 2016. With guidance from professional mentors and trainers, 40 girls from 10 Moldovan localities received training in web applications development and basic IT skills. The GirlsGoIT participants became local ambassadors of the program by spreading knowledge in their communities and inspiring others to pursue a career in IT.


children are attending robotics clubs through RoboClub


educational institutions implementing RoboClub


libraries implementing RoboClub

In addition, MCP’s educational robotics initiative introduced students to the First Lego League robotics competition in early 2016. One of the most important international youth competitions in the field of technology and robotics, First Lego League takes place in 80 countries and introduces young people to the fun and excitement of science and technology. Moldova’s winning team competed at international robotics competitions in Estonia and Spain, an invaluable opportunity for exposure to the global STEM community.

As girls and boys in Moldova gain exposure to STEM, they also gain enthusiasm. Thousands of students are at the helm of the country’s STEM education improvement efforts, and with robotics in their academic portfolio, they gain the skills, resources, and passion to confidently pursue STEM careers.