STEM related subjects have garnered significantly more attention from education advocates and after school advocates. According to an article, Recognizing afterschool STEM’s impact by Anita Krishnamurthi, “the after-school community has a vital role, and can make a crucial difference in promoting science, technology, engineering and math or STEM, learning.” By learning about STEM related subject in school and after school youth will have a better understanding of these growing fields. After-school programs, with the help of STEM companies and universities give students a hands-on experience to the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math.
At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County, we have been opening more doors to these partnerships with STEM companies and professionals in the field in order to broaden the horizons of students and give them a glimpse of the future of a STEM career. By partnering with First LEGO® League, STEM professionals, working at local organizations like Boeing, expose students to new things by mentoring and encouraging them in STEM subjects through programs like First LEGO® League LEGO® Robotics. This program teaches kids math, science and technology through an applied learning experience and a fun competition.
The First LEGO® League (FLL) was designed to show kids how exciting science, technology and engineering can be as a career. The program gives youth a chance to take what they learn in a classroom setting and apply it through research, critical thinking and creativity. Ultimately FLL gives youth exposure to different areas of STEM, introducing them to new career opportunities that they might not have ever known about.
The FLL program includes a Challenge Project that teams compete in once a year with the help of at least one mentor/coach. The Challenge Project, given out in fall is comprised of three components, a Robot Game, Project and FLL Core Values. By the end of the year local teams come together for the local competition, with the winning team moving on to higher competitions.
The Robot Game allows teams to build and program an autonomous (without a remote control) LEGO® MINDSTORM® robot which can earn points by performing mission tasks such as navigating, capturing and transporting objects on a printed map called The Field.
The Project gives teams the chance to use their creativity to design a solution, or modify an existing solution, to a real-world problem. Past Projects have focused on nanotechnology and transportation.
The FLL Core Values promote team building behavior and cooperation between teams. During the competition, judges room the room and evaluate teams on the 8 core values. These values encourage team members to maintain a cooperative and team attitude which translates into daily life. Essentially the Robot Game and Project are what teams do whereas the FLL Core Values are how they do it.
Snohomish County Clubs, Alderwood Boys & Girls Club and Snohomish Boys & Girls Club have competed the last couple of years in the local LEGO® Robotics competition. Thanks to funding from the Nysether Family Foundation, these LEGO® Robotics Teams are growing quickly in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County.
At a competition held at the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club during Spring Break, new teams from the South Everett/Mukilteo Boys & Girls Club and Bargreen Lake Stevens Boys & Girls Club participated for the first time while the Marysville Boys & Girls Club observed the competition in hopes of developing a team in the near future. The competition theme was soccer and teams had to develop robots that could make goals. With strong FLL Core Values and competence of the project, the Snohomish Boys & Girls Club won first place.
With the help of coaches like Snohomish Boys & Girls Club coach, Tom Newton, an employee from Boeing and experienced FLL coach, team members learn how to research and develop their own innovative ideas.
The upcoming competition, Nature’s Fury will begin in September and will focus on finding solutions when a natural disaster strikes.