Providing easily accessible and free curriculum for the foundations of coding
Program: FIRST® Tech Challenge
Location: Highland Park, Illinois, United States
Our goal is to expose and immerse younger students in software skills as part of their school-day. We strive to make this an inexpensive and straightforward program for teachers with a limited STEM background to use it in their classroom. We piloted our FIRST® Virtual Robot Simulator (VRS) curriculum in collaboration with FIRST® Tech Challenge in Illinois and Deerfield School District 109, and produced an easy to teach, inexpensive to run, yet profoundly impactful STEM curriculum. This provided teachers an easily accessible and free curriculum in the foundations of coding for their younger students. This program requires few skills in STEM instruction from the teacher and few unique resources from the school; the only remaining item a classroom would need to participate in our free seven-week course is a computer.
Utilizing the VRS, we guided over 400 fifth-grade students through the basics of software development. Once the VRS course was incorporated into the curriculum, we would visit the classrooms in person to guide students through the skills taught. By using pre-recorded instructional videos created by the team, live remote calls, and a 24/7 interactive question hub, students experienced the increasingly rigorous challenges of programming virtual robots. Additionally, students were taught how to document challenges and how they persevered.
While we may use the engineering skills developed through competition in our careers, we expect that the FIRST ethos of Gracious Professionalism® will permeate every aspect of our professional and personal lives. The value of partnering with and assisting others by creating a collaborative environment where understanding, tolerance, and achievement thrive are ones our team lives by and respect immensely. By facilitating inclusive and attainable experiences by diverse populations, we are better able to understand all the ways engineering can improve people's lives. The improvement of diversity in STEM benefits us all as a richer, more diverse set of viewpoints can be engaged in solving the world's problems through STEM. Together we can find solutions to problems we didn't know existed and build better, more tolerant people along the way.