A Science and Technology Program That Is Transforming Our Culture and Changing Young People’s Minds About What They Want To Be When They Grow Up.

In reviewing some of the greatest pioneering programs in STEM education, I thought it would be valuable to share a program that I believe to be one of the most inspiring out there. Many of you may be aware of this program and some of you may even be involved in it. (We-Google Lunar X PRIZE have even blogged about it before in earlier posts.) For those that aren’t aware of this program, I wanted to take some time and summarize it, along with posting a few new facts.

Founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nationwide 501c program that organizes adults and youth to work together in a mentor based program that fosters science, engineering and technology skills. Youth build self confidence, communication and leadership skills through their innovative designs of robot constructions. Depending on which program youth are involved in, robots can be designed using common kits, modular platforms, LEGO MINDSTORM technologies or LEGO bricks.

Who supports FIRST and how many youth are involved? In cooperation with 90,000 volunteers and over 3,500 corporations, education and professional organizations, this program currently reaches 212,000+ students worldwide.

FIRST Program Age/Grade Groups
- FIRST Robotics for Grades 9-12: 45, 225 students
- FIRST Tech Challenge for Grades 9-12: 11,000 students
- FIRST Lego League for Grades 4-8: 147,250 students
- Junior FIRST LEGO League for Grades K-3: 9,000 students

How is this program affecting the change in attitude for science and engineering careers? The Brandies University Center for Youth and Communities conducted an independent retrospective survey of the FIRST Robotics Competition participants and compared results to a group of non-FIRST students with similar backgrounds and academic experiences. When compared with the comparison group, FIRST students are:

• More than 3 times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
• Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree.
• More than twice as likely to pursue a career in science and technology.
• Roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship or co- op job in their freshman year.

How will Google Lunar X PRIZE be involved? We will be visiting one of many regional competitions taking place this month. As a spectator, we will get the pleasure to watch teams compete locally in Long Beach, California on March 25th-27th. We will be posting pictures and information about this regional competition on The Launch Pad. We will also be attending the FIRST Championship as a spectator on April 15th-17th in Atlanta, Georgia. X PRIZE will be joining LEGO and National Instruments at their resource booths to disseminate information about up and coming education programs related to the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

Click here to get information about FIRST robotic regional championships and tournaments being held this month. These events are free and open to the public.

blog comments powered by Disqus