How FIRST® is helping this community make STEM stars

“Robotics isn’t really about robots to me, it’s about ways to improve our future. Sure it involves robots, but that isn’t only what it has, it also has a project and another portion of treating others with respect. What I want from robotics is to keep me engaged in the interest I have for my love of science… and to help our future….You know how scientists found out the north and south pole have shifted? The solution is robotics. So coming from me, robotics is about helping others and respect to make the world a lighter place.” — Ja’lyn (6th grade)

Sometimes for incredible things to happen, all you need is a good starting point. For many, FIRST® programs offer such a springboard. I first learned about the FLL teams of  Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology (BBCAT) from a Kansas City, Missouri news article sent to me by their coach and mentor – William Wells (Network Administrator at BBCAT).  William is using FIRST® to help create an environment of success not only at his school and with his teams, but also in his community. As he explained:

“Our school serves a population of students whereas 99% of the students are being raised by families or guardians that live at or below the poverty line.  I have made it a mission to use FIRST Robotics and its ethos: Core Values, to give our kids at least a chance to change a cycle of poverty and sub-par education results.
Last year, we set out a plan to get other schools with students from other demographics to join hands and work together with FIRST Robotics as the platform or vehicle to execute the plan.  I am pleased to announce that over a year later, this plan is now taking root and beginning to grow. Our joint efforts with another school, who did not have a team of their own last year, led to their school forming two teams (one FLL and one Jr. FLL) this year while our school increased our number of teams (two FLL and two Jr. FLL).  We are still working together as we are co-hosting a ‘Let Go My LEGO Scramble’ which will be a means to introduce FIRST Robotics to the other schools and community organizations in our area.

“One of the things that I am trying to teach which plagues our community and culture is…reaching back and working with those who come after you.  Again, FIRST is the perfect platform to help us accomplish this objective.”

bbcats team

So, what do his students think about being involved in FIRST® LEGO® League? Here’s what they had to say:

“I am in robotics to learn more technology… and how to work as a team.” — Dacia

“I want to be in robotics because we get to build robots and create a skit to show off our work. I get to learn new things in maths such as trigonometry. I get to work with a team that is nice to me and can help with something I don’t get. Since I want to be a computer engineer, I have been told that robotics is a great program to join for kids that are interested in jobs like I like. Overall, I think robotics is fun!” — DeMarco

“I like robotics because I am learning lots of stuff and I’m meeting new people. I like to play with the robot and they are really cool. I’m expecting a lot of cool things from robotics. I’m expecting to learn how to control the robot and become a pro at it!” — Estefany

“I want to be in robotics because I want to learn much more about math and science.  I have a “B” in both math and science.  I’m trying to bring those up to an “A”.  I want to learn about gears and machines.  When I first started, I was focused on matches and the robot but it is more than that. I want to be in robotics because I get to have fun with the friends while learning.  I am in a nice environment.  People encourage me to do my best.  Encouraging others is a part of our core values.  Core Values are the cornerstone of FIRST LEGO League. (FLL).” — Tony

After reading these comments and hearing about what’s going on in Kansas City, I’d say that these kids are already off the platform … and ‘reaching for the stars’ !