The NYU Tandon School of Engineering partners with NYC FIRST to run its FIRST Lego League (FLL) and First Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics competitions throughout the five boroughs. Teams have been attending workshops to brush up on skills or learn new strategies.
NYC FIRST and the School of Engineering provide schools and teachers opportunities to access FIRST robotics programs and train coaches. Thousands of students, their mentors, and teachers will compete in the 2015/2016 tournaments. In the 2015 FLL challenge, Trash Trek, teams (4th – 8th graders) will design a solution to a current trash-related problem and build and program LEGO robots to complete a series of missions while also gaining teamwork and leadership skills. Participation in FIRST programs gives students a hands-on way to learn engineering, physics, math and computer science concepts.
Since the robotics season recently begun, New York City teams have attended clinics at the Engineering School campus. FLL team members from 3rd to 8th grade worked diligently with their coaches to complete their robot while engineering students were on hand for trouble-shooting. The level of engagement and dedication was palpable. Sheryl Liels, a coach from Cambria Center For The Gifted Child in Queens, explained why the students on her school’s team were so drawn to FLL. They use EV3’s, a very popular programmable robot/software to complete missions, which is fun and challenging, but she also sees enormous growth in teamwork among the students.
The positive effect of the FLL focus on teamwork was repeated by other coaches and team members. From Lab Middle School, Nora, the assistant coach noted, “There has been much improvement, especially in working together. I’m very proud of the team.” Faviel, on another middle-school team, “really likes the club because it’s a good break from school.” He also commented, “it’s hard to do all the missions with one robot but the team really works together.”
In addition to addressing teamwork and technical skills, FLL and other FIRST programs often serve as a way to increase inclusivity in STEM-related pursuits. The Robo Rebels – Divas for Social Justice are working to increase the proportion of girls in robotics and engineering. Two members responded when asked what their team’s name meant to them; 5th grader, Kalola said, “I always see a lot of male coaches and I think that there should be more women because we can express just as much creativity.” Amia agreed and added, “yeah girls can do anything, it’s not for one gender.”
The ability of these young students to spend a weekend day focusing their effort on engineering challenges was impressive. While taking the work seriously, they are definitely enjoying it!