In 2015, we piloted running a junior robotics program for community members whose children did not have FIRST programs at their schools. For the first year, we advertised and offered FLL Jr. for students in first through fourth grade. This initial program yeilded 15 FLL Jr. team members, distributed to three teams, who completed the challenge, participated in a local exposition that we hosted at our annual Super Science Saturday event, and traveled to LEGOLand to participate in their FLL Jr. Exposition as well. The meetings were held for two hours (with an energy burning activity in the middle), once per week, for eight weeks in the fall. All teams met at the same time, enabling parents with multiple children to have the convenience of common times and locations for worthwhile activities for their children. Parents and students gave us tremendous feedback and asked that we continue the program in the following year. As some of the students were growing up into the FLL range of ages, we were also asked to expand our program to include FLL.
Bulding upon the success of 2015, we offered the entire suite of FIRST programs in the fall of 2016. Over 100 students joined our Junior Robotics Program, distributing into twelve FLL Jr. teams, four FLL teams, and one FTC team. Continuing the model from 2015, all teams meet at the same time and place, enabling parents to have children in multiple programs, on different teams, without requiring an excessive time commitment. The teams are mentored and led by members of FIRST Team 585, with the assistance of volunteers from other school clubs. In addition to the evening programs, FIRST Team 585 partnered with Golden Hills Elementary school to initiate three FLL teams as an after school program. Overall, the FIRST Team 585 Junior Robotics Program swelled from 15 students in its pilot year to 140 students in 2016.
In FLL Jr. small teams of 1st through 3rd grade students learn about a topic, research something related to that topic, and share what they’ve learned by creating a poster board display, a motorized LEGO model, and presenting these at an exposition.
The theme this year was Creature Craze. The learned about bees, where they live, what they eat, and why they are important for the enviornment. They then chose an animal that shares a habitat with bees and reseached that animal. For their expo, the kids put together a model of the habitat that they chose included a motorized feature.
In FLL, teams of 4th and 5th graders design, build, and program LEGO MindStorms robots to overcome a series of tasks. The students also research a problem and communicate a solution while learning how to work together following the FLL Core Values.
This year’s challenge was Animal Allies. The kids learned about the animals that are in our food chain and those people who care for them as well as the equipment they use.
In FTC, students in 7th through 12th grade work together to build a medium sized robot to compete on a field with similar robots. The students design and build their robot using metal kits and program them to be operated with Android phones. This year’s challenge, Velocity Vortex, included moving whiffle and yoga balls to goals.What is FTC?2016