As a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) educator and enthusiast, there is nothing I have looked forward to more than the FIRST Detroit World Championship on April 24th-27th. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology and currently has 400,000+ students and 38,700+ robotics teams. FIRST not only gets kids interested in science and technology, but they provide a consistent program where kids can become proficient in those subjects and succeed in their personal lives. I am a huge fan of FIRST and everything that they're doing as I see how much it benefits my community and communities around the globe. 27 countries participate in FIRST.
As the number of robotics teams participating in FIRST continues to grow, FIRST felt that two World Championships were needed and implemented the FIRST Detroit World Championship and the FIRST Houston World Championship in 2018. This includes all four programs: FIRST LEGO League Jr., FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition. I am from Troy, Michigan, which is around 30 minutes from Detroit. I appreciated being able to see our national flower, the traffic cone, on the drive to the Cobo Center every day.
There were over 40,000 attendees, mentors, and students involved in the space-themed competitions. The students competed with robots that they built and showcased them to volunteer judges. Several downtown venues in Detroit hosted associated events and activities, such as Ford Field, Beacon Park, and Campus Martius Park. It was great to see the community rally around kids learning about STEM.
This was my first time attending as alumni. Last year, I graduated from Troy High School and was a student on FRC Team 4384. Now, I am taking a gap year and mentoring over 30 robotics teams. If you'd like to learn more about what I've been up to, check out this fantastic article by Fabbaloo.
April 24th: Day 1
The competition was in full swing at the Cobo Center with setup and robot shipment having occurred the day before. I brought one of my all-girls FTC teams on a field trip to the competition. After getting off from work, I toured the 6th graders around the convention center. They were mesmerized to learn that high schoolers were in FTC and were proud to see a team from India. That is the type of representation I like to see!
They also collected a ton of STEM-themed goodies from the Innovation Faire. I enjoyed seeing the DASI Solutions booth. They are a SOLIDWORKS reseller and are doing so many remarkable things for the world of FIRST and STEM. They provide resources for FIRST teams and students through their DASI FIRST website, helping connect mentors to teams and posting about opportunities. I recommend checking their site out. I appreciate how much they value the community, as they even have a workshop for FRC Team 469 at their office in Pontiac.
April 25th: Day 2
I had the amazing opportunity of presenting for a second time at the Championship, this time on "An 18-Year-Olds Take: Development Strategies for Creative STEM Education." This 50-minute presentation guided mentors and students alike on how to craft the perfect STEM educational event by thinking outside of the box. I was so glad to discuss the approach of online outreach, where one utilizes social media to spread FIRST and STEM. International Academy East Principal Ryan Brinks graciously allowed three FRC 4384 students to skip school and attend my presentation. It was so awesome to share my experiences with the girls!
I also ransacked the FIRST Store. This year they had glorious FIRST suspenders for sale. If you weren't able to attend, be sure to check out the online FIRST Store. I treasure my FIRST swag so much!
I had a few meetings and met some amazing FIRST community members! I cannot wait to see more doors open up for me to bring FIRST and STEM to kids.
Additionally, I attended the FIRST Alumni Mixer and (finally) met Jay Flores and Erica Perez and discuss our STEM passions. Jay Flores is a STEM Ambassador from Rockwell Automation who is doing so many remarkable things to inspire kids to join the #STEMSQUAD. Erica Perez is the Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager at FIRST and showcases the remarkable things that FIRST is involved in on her social media. I suggest adding them both on LinkedIn to learn more about what they're doing to benefit the STEM community.
April 26th: Day 3
A few of my high school students came to the Championship and I got to visit with them, as well as with old FIRST friends. I also got to delve into the world of FLL and ask the students about their work and team projects. I love seeing young brilliant minds at work!
I am a huge fan of SOLIDWORKS, having used the computer-aided design program for almost five years now. I met Rachel York, the SOLIDWORKS Community and User
Advocacy Manager, at the 2018 FIRST Detroit World Championship which led to my feature in their Education Blog. I was so fortunate to be able to meet Education Contractor Sara Zuckerman the author of my blog post (as well as an awesome upcoming project) at the Championship and have dinner with her, Senior Project Portfolio Manager Sara Junghans, and others. They came all the way from the Boston area to attend the Championship, and I am glad that they liked Detroit!
April 27th: Day 4
I am very proud of how well Michigan did at the Detroit Championship, with FRC Team 217 ThunderChickens from Sterling Heights, MI and FRC Team 3707 TechnoDogs from Brighton, MI among the winners of the Championship. Michigan is an engineering hub in the United States and the number of robotics teams here reflect that.
If you are not involved in FIRST, I recommend becoming a part of the family! Whether it be volunteering for a local competition, mentoring a team, or placing your child on a team... there is room for everyone with every skill set. Learn more here.
Stay tuned for an upcoming article this week on the presentation that I gave with tips on developing your own creative STEM educational programs.