By Lynn Fitzpatrick
Spark interest among like-minded people, find mentors and advisors, gather, form committees, review the rules of the game, analyze, prototype, design, fabricate, assemble, document, practice, compete. That’s what S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and math) teams do in preparation for robotics competitions whether they are high school teams participating in FIRST Lego, Tech, or Robotics competitions. It’s just like the America’s Cup.
Extracurricular activities, not just classes, are among the things students look forward to throughout the academic year. As more and more schools are fielding high school sailing teams, they are being outpaced by the number of teams forming for S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and math) competitions around the world. Students in schools that don’t have a S.T.E.M. robotics team, don’t have to look as far as they used to explore new ideas and opportunities while collaborating with their peers, mentors, and community resources to develop an understanding of S.T.E.M. concepts and skills through hands-on learning experiences in a friendly and cooperative environment.
Recently, I was introduced to two high school teams that are gearing up for the FIRST Robotics Competition rule that will be released in January 2018. One long-standing team had 50 students involved, a mentor advisory council, mentors, and student leaders. They also had an annual budget of over $70,000 to cover the cost of their robotics kit, tools, travel, lodging, and other materials. They had a business plan. They had mechanical, software, electrical, media, and PR “departments”. They had systems. They had poise. They showed professionalism and they had confidence enough and experience enough to budget to attend the world championship.
Newly founded, the other team was assembled from four counties and included public, private, charter and home schooled teenagers. They were on a steep learning curve about FIRST Robotics Competitions; club formation; finding mentors, sponsors, teachers, and meeting space; and learning a bit about everything that goes into making a robot and determining what skills and attributes they could best contribute to the team or which ones they wanted to develop. Fortunately, in the spirit of “coopertition”, the well-established team was working with them to assist and enable them.
None of the students were earning class credits. Neither of the teams was funded out of the school’s or the district’s funds. Everyone involved was doing it for the joy of learning, exploring new ideas, and working with others.
As Integrity Team USA awaits the design rule for the 36th America’s Cup, it’s doing everything these high school teams are doing on a grand scale. We’re looking forward to fostering opportunities to increase technology and engineering literacy and promoting critical thinking by developing hands-on experiences, student internships, job shadowing, and student design competitions. We’ll lead by example. We will act with integrity and we will help and cooperate with others – especially our innovators and trailblazers of tomorrow. Integrity Team USA looks forward to building S.T.E.A.M. into its operations, outreach, and legacy.