Project Based Learning
Project, or problem-based, learning provides youth with hands on solutions oriented educational programming, that creates academic impact by virtue of a real world learning environment. In the case of ROBOTICON, students are exercising engineering, math, design, construction, teamwork, and strategic thinking in the course of a robotics competition. (Check out our 2015 Newspaper in Education ROBOTICON issue for some great examples!)
As an off season event, with a stronger focus on the game play aspects of the experience, youth robotics team students, as well as young spectators, get to enjoy robust learning opportunities that demonstrate the real world skills applications of what they learn through their season builds, particularly when they get to spend time with University of South Florida College of Engineering professors and students, and sponsors from the professional community.
The work that FCDI is doing through the Tampa Bay Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics Center (AMRoC) is focused on project based learning experiences. Here are some good resources for learning more about the power of Project Based Learning including some good resources right here in Florida.
Mentor Supported Learning
One of the things that makes project based learning most effective is combining it with mentor support from the professional community. Programs like FIRST, VEX and similar leverage the professional community to share time and expertise with youth. Mentoring is quite likely the most critical aspect of any youth experience, regardless of the learning platform. Youth who are able to spend time with mentors benefit from the attention of a responsible and trusted adult feel heard and respected, have a better understanding of real world experiences, and generally develop a better road map for their future.
Youth, particularly those in underserved, at-risk communities, benefit academically and personally from the influence of a strong mentor. Here are some good resources for learning more about mentoring.
Project Based STEM Education
STEM education is probably among some of the easiest academic programs in which to apply PBL. ROBOTICON largely showcases FIRST programs, a K-12 project based learning programs with energy and fun in a format that the general public can enjoy and in which young guests can also enjoy some hands on fun and learning! FIRST provides project based learning in alignment with Common Core and Florida state standards, as well as over $80 million in scholarships to participating high school students. The programs are inclusive, accessible and affordable, with significant grant funding available to new and existing teams.
FIRST STEM Education
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST® K-12 STEM education programs use robot challenges to build science and technology skills and interests,in a character driven program that also inspires self-confidence, leadership, and life skills . In Florida, FIRST serves over 10,000 students statewide. At the high school level, over $80 million in scholarships are available to participating students.
FIRST Educational Resources
- Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy
- EV3 Lessons – Comprehensive resources for FIRST LEGO League
- FIRST Educator Curriculum – for FIRST LEGO League Jr, FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge
- FIRST in Florida Resource Library
- FIRST on Instructables
- Modern Robotics FIRST Tech Challenge resources
- NASA Robotics Alliance Project
FIRST Team Funding Resources
- AIAA Foundation FIRST® LEGO® League Grant Program – available to members of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics who coach teams
- Central Florida Robotics grants
- Donors Choose
- FIRST grants general info- all programs/FIRST
- FIRST Robotics Competition Rookie Team grants/FIRST
- FIRST Tech Challenge grants/FIRST
- Florida Power & Light FIRST grants – teams must be in FPL service area – FY 2018/19 rookie team grants for all programs
- Foundation for Community Driven Innovation STEAM Teams Funding – fiscal sponsorship for teams lacking nonprofits or school affiliations
- Gene Haas Foundation – Secondary Level Program Scholarships Grant Application (apply January 15th for 2019 funding)
- Motorola Solutions grants – for those in service areas
- NASA Robotics Alliance Project grants
- State of Florida Funding (HB 5001, 2018-19) for FIRST programs – In south Florida contact SContreras@FIRSTInspires.org and in Central and North Florida, contact WAustin@FIRSTInspires.org for more information.
- STEMfinity grants – through Florida Education Foundations by county
- United Technologies Corporation (UTC) Team Grants – requires UTC employee participation
State & Local Contacts
Visit FIRST in Florida to learn more about FIRST programs statewide. In the Tampa Bay area, contact West Florida Robotics for FIRST LEGO League and FIRST LEGO League Jr. support and ROBOT League of Tampa Bay for FIRST Tech Challenge support. For FIRST Robotics Competition questions, please email FRCTeams@FIRSTInspires.org .