“It’s not about making people do engineering — it’s about making people love engineering.”
In following our mission statement, team 4029 also works intensively to spread engineering in the community. Likewise, the mission of FIRST is to show students at every age that science, engineering, technology, and problem-solving are fun and rewarding. In following our 100% student-run mentality, everything below is completely done by us. We organize everything, and no materials are pulled from online. We value inspiring people to love engineering. Below is a summary of our outreach activities in the 2014-2015 season:
While the Lexington Public School system is STEM-oriented, it lacks engineering supports or curricula. LexRobotics has been the primary program bringing engineering classes around the district for the past two years. Desire for further educational engineering programs across all school levels has been exhibited by the popularity of the LexRobotics Design & Debug classes (each of which garner an average of 50 students) and the amount of members in LexRobotics. The LexRobotics club totals 60-90 members due to our open doors policy.
We are currently leading two long-term grant initiatives, both of which culminate into the largest engineering initiative in the history of our public school district.
- Educational Robotics Curriculum – Transitioning robotics curricula to the school system and training teachers in order to establish an integrated robotics curriculum at all schools below the high school. It will begin as a six-week afterschool robotics course that will repeat in cycles as teachers gradually learn how to run it on their own.
- High School R&D/MakerSpace – A location and resource at the high school where anyone can engineer any project at their own pace in a safe and nurturing environment. During the day, faculty can use the materials to run engineering classes. Afterschool, any student in the high school can have access to thousands of dollars worth of materials and tools. The space will be equipped with full learning supports and volunteer mentors.
Design & Debug
Two years ago, LexRobotics created an educational robotics curricula entitled “Design & Debug” ranging from 1 to 3 week classes. The “Design & Debug” classes have reached over 800 students at various schools since its start in March 2013. In the 2014-2015 season we have reached 300+ students. The program is run afterschool and is completely free. Our “Design & Debug” work has allowed us to develop educational robotics curricula over time, some of which will be applied in the grant initiatives mentioned above.
Birthday Parties for Homeless Children
Since December 2013, we have been working with “Birthday Wishes” — a nonprofit organization which brings birthday parties to homeless children — to develop robotics birthday parties for homeless children. We cater to their largest shelter in Waltham, MA, which tends to have about 60-100 kids. Our biggest event with them is an annual Christmas birthday party, which is one of our favorite outreach events to run. At each party, we bring a competition bot to demo, Lego robotics building/programming stations, and a CakeBot built by our rookie program to deliver the birthday cake.
Robotics Classes for Special Needs Students
This season, we started running robotics classes for special needs students in conjunction with our county’s LABBB program. The LABBB program brings special needs students from different towns within the county and brings them to Lexington High School. We run cycles of three-week classes, with each class running for two hours. The classes are limited to 10-15 students, which allows us to give more personalized classes. Each class is run similarly to our Design & Debug program. Additionally, our rookie program built a robot which could clean up ‘debris’ for the students to demo.
“Meet the Robot” Showcases
We created a series of 1-1.5 hour long robotics showcases entitled “Meet the Robot” which we have brought around the state. Each showcase features 15 minutes of presentation from the team concerning LexRobotics, FIRST, and the FTC competition. Afterwards, the showcases run in a more open-house style manner. People can demo robots built by either the veterans or our rookies, build small Lego robots of their own to complete a challenge, and talk to team members personally. Each showcase garners ~300 people. Our most common venue is our local library. However, we have also brought the showcase to other towns such as Belmont, MA.
To support other nonprofits, we bring robotics booths to various charity fundraisers. For example, “Birthday Wishes” hosts an annual 5K fundraiser entitled “CakeWalk” which we exhibit at. This is a way for us to help promote organizations such as “Birthday Wishes.” Even when there are other booths at such events, we are often the most popular one. We believe that FIRST robotics showcase can extend beyond marketing FIRST and to supporting charitable causes.
PTC Live Global
We were invited to represent FIRST at the international level by PTC at their global event in the Boston Convention Center. At the event, we set up a field with the “Block Party” challenge for people to come and watch. We also there with FTC 6055, the GearTicks. It was a great opportunity to meet engineers, and we were proud to represent PTC and FIRST.
Hosting the Official FIRST Next Gen Field Test Reveal
We received the honor of hosting the Next Gen Field test at our school. Our rookie built a robot designed for “Cascade Effect” was was converted to the new system there, and we are very excited for the new changes going into next year.
FLL Summer Mentoring Course
Over the summer, we ran a 10-week FLL mentoring course to help students learn about FLL and to develop their own robotics and engineering skills. Each class featured a design/programming challenge (or a continuation of one) and a discussion about the engineering process and how to function as an FLL team.
Introducing Robotics to Summer Camps
We brought a temporary robotics program to Camp Rotary — a sleepaway camp in Boxford, MA. It was introduced as occasional workshops which campers could pop into during one of their free periods within the day.
Touring Engineering Facilities
So far this season, we have toured Bolt — a hardware startup in Boston, MA. We were the first group of high school students to receive such an opportunity, and it was great to meet and greet engineers in the field. Bolt is a company which helps other engineering startups get off the ground, and it has been very successful so far. The main part of the tour was seeing their MakerSpace where people are always developing prototypes and products in.
We sponsored local and state-wide STEM events such as LexHack, a leading New England high school hackathon. A hackathon is a programming competition across a long period of time (typically ranging from 10-48 hours). This hackathon in particular was the first-ever high school hackathon run exclusively by high school students. As a sponsor, we provided the venue.
Primary Source for STEM Volunteers in Lexington
Last season, we sent LexRobotics volunteers to a multitude of STEM activities within Lexington ranging from math nights to helping out at science clubs. This year, many of those groups or events have begun consistently reaching out to us for more volunteers. Consequently, LexRobotics has become a primary source for STEM volunteers in Lexington.
We are currently working with Belmont, a neighboring town, to develop a robotics program there.
Coordinating with other FIRST Teams
We have worked with other FIRST teams in a number of ways:
- Work with the Bot Side (another FTC team) to host a number of FIRST showcases at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, MA
- Shared CAD models with other FTC teams which lack experience in CAD
- Maintain relations with FTC 6055, the GearTicks