Jameson Harvey is an 18-year-old FIRST® alum from a regional area of Australia. In 2019, his team took second place at the FIRST ® LEGO ® League World Festival, and he came home more passionate about spreading awareness of STEM and the mission of FIRST than ever. Jameson was inspired to make STEM and robotics more accessible to other students like him in regional Australia. Thus, his project Red Dirt Robotics was born.
Even though employment in STEM occupations is expected to grow by 12.9 percent over the next five years, students in remote, regional areas of Australia don’t have the same access to STEM education and resources as compared to students who live in metropolitan areas. One study from the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment shows that the average 15-year-old from remote Australia is 1.5 years behind metropolitan students in science and they are also under-represented in the STEM workforce.
To help close this STEM accessibility gap, Jameson will be taking a year-long road trip across Australia, from Outback Queensland to the indigenous communities of the Northern Territory and everywhere in between. He will teach students essential STEM and robotics skills needed for future jobs. Jameson says, “I want to make robotics as accessible to as many people as possible.”
Learn more about Jameson and the mission of Red Dirt Robotics below.
FIRST: How did you get involved with FIRST® LEGO® League and what was that experience like for you?
Harvey: I first participated in the FIRST LEGO League when I was in grade 8 back in 2017 for the Hydrodynamics season. My team and I made it to the Australian National Championships in our rookie year which was such an awesome achievement! We then returned the following year for the Into Orbit season and took our First Place Robot Performance and Project awards, which granted us the National Champions for that year!
FIRST: Can you share a favorite memory from your time in FIRST?
Harvey: My favorite memory from my time in FIRST would have to be the feeling I got when our robot completed all of our missions perfectly at Nationals in 2018 in our top scoring run. Seeing all of the months of hard work pay off was very rewarding. If you watch the livestream of our top scoring run, you can see and hear me jumping around and shouting with joy!
FIRST: What skills did you gain through FIRST that you currently use with Red Dirt Robotics?
Harvey: Patience and persistence are two of the skills that I learnt through FIRST that I use every single day with Red Dirt Robotics. Patience for all the many long hours I spend driving across this massive country, and persistence to keep on going, to keep learning new skills to pass on, and to not give up on my goal of spreading STEM far and wide across Australia.
FIRST: How did you first discover the need to spread STEM and robotics to the regional areas of Australia?
Harvey: When I first came up with the idea of Red Dirt Robotics, I had no idea about how large the disparity between remote students and metropolitan students is when it came to their skills in STEM, I just thought it would be a fun way to spend my first year out of high school. After visiting schools that aren't far at all from large cities and towns and hearing that not a single student hadn't done any sort of robotics or coding before really validated the importance for what I am doing.
FIRST: You’re about to head off on a yearlong road trip to teach students in remote areas of Australia about STEM and robotics; what does a stop on your trip look like?
Harvey: At the time of writing this, I have been on the road for 4 weeks and have been loving the adventure! When I visit a remote or regional school, I would typically spend a full day with up to 20 students. Together, we learn how to use our robots in a number of challenges and games. For example, we drive through mazes, line following, and also have Sumobot Challenges which is always a favorite.
FIRST: Is this road trip sponsored by a company or something you are doing independently?
Harvey: Red Dirt Robotics was initially something I have set up and been running independently and had done for about a month. However recently, a few companies have jumped on board with some sponsorship to get me going further than I imagined. One of which being Sage Automation.
FIRST: Who else is joining you on this journey? What tools do you bring along to aid in teaching?
Harvey: For now, Red Dirt Robotics is a one man show, but I do have big plans for the future! As I am living out of my Troopy, space is limited and I had to come up with a way to take everything I need, in the smallest possible configuration. I have 10 laptops, 10 robots, and a few challenge mats (sumo/line follow) that are rolled up to take up little space. I have had to be creative and use colored electrical tape and masking tape to outline mazes and other challenges too!
FIRST: What do you hope the outcomes of your road trip will be? What do you want the students you meet to take away from this learning experience?
Harvey: Whenever I meet any of the young engineers I come across on my journey, I hope to have at least planted a seed of inspiration for them. I hope to have shown them that location doesn’t define what you can or can't do, and that robotics is something that they definitely can do.
FIRST: Who is your biggest role model in the world of STEM?
Harvey: My biggest role model in the world of STEM would have to be my high school robotics coach Simon Richardson, or “Richo” as we would call him. I owe a lot of my successes to him and can safely say that I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now if I hadn’t had him as a mentor. He first encouraged me to start teaching robotics back in 2019, which then led to me starting my business; Royal Robotics.
FIRST: What is the most rewarding part of teaching other students about STEM and robotics?
Harvey: The most rewarding part of teaching other students about STEM and robotics would have to be hearing them say that they want to learn more. Hearing this means that I have been successful at inspiring the next generation of young engineers.
FIRST: What’s next for you after you complete this road trip?
Harvey: Another road trip next year, that will be bigger and better! I plan to visit every state in Australia and go even more remote than I will be going this year!
Editor's Note: as of 7/15 Jameson's project is on hold due to his vehicle being broken into and items being stolen. Jameson is asking for support on GoFundMe in order to resume his work: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-take-robotics-to-the-outback
To follow along on the road trip and Jameson’s progress on his mission to bring STEM to remote areas of Australia, please visit this link.