Putting STEM first in the FIRST Robotics Competition

FRC Team in West Delaware County Community School District
The leadership group for West Delaware High School’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team, started through the STEM Scale-Up Program, talks strategy and design for the approaching build season of their robot.

You might think it takes an Einstein-like mind to build a robot from scratch—or at least some years studying the craft. Yet, a program offered on the 2016-17 STEM Scale-Up Program menu is making it common for high school students to be the new, young minds behind these innovations. It’s called, “FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).”

With the help of the STEM Scale-Up Program, the number of FRC teams has more than doubled in Iowa since 2015. Half of the 22 current teams started with the help of the program award, recruiting nearly 180 students across the state.

According to Kenton Swartley, the FRC lead for the state and community partnerships and STEM facilitator for Cedar Falls Community School District, each team member spends an average of 10 hours per week on the project, sometimes meeting as often as five days a week. From programming and robot design to outreach presentations and communications, an FRC team has diverse offerings for students to plug into a role of their interest or expertise.

“It is about coming together as a team and working toward a common goal,” said Ben Moser, a teacher and team leader at West Delaware Community School District. “Our students have really embraced that challenge. They have done so much already, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do.”

The team, funded through the STEM Scale-Up Program, currently has 20 members—eight females and 12 males—15 of whom come from grades 9-10. Moser says a leadership team oversees the build and business aspects of the program and has visited with local business partners to produce sponsorships and recruit mentors.

The end goal?

“To go to the regional competition with a robot that can compete, as well as building a team that will be established for years to come,” Moser said. “There is a lot of unknowns ahead, but the team is looking forward to facing the challenges head on.”

The regional competition will be held at the University of Northern Iowa McLeod Center on March 22-25, 2017, and is open to the public. Click here for more information about FRC or visit www.IowaSTEM.gov/Scale-Up to learn more about the STEM Scale-Up Program. Educator applications to earn and use outstanding STEM programs in 2017-18 opens on Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

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