Most people who know me know I have a passion for FIRST Robotics. During the school year, much of my free time is spent volunteering in one way or another, from planning to coaching to mentoring to judging and beyond. I spend a good portion of my vacation hours traveling to competitions in places such as Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Michigan. I feel that the values and skills young people learn as a part of these programs are invaluable and lessons that they will carry with them through high school, college and life beyond. I am so honored to be a part of this program.
The mission of FIRST Lego League is to inspire youth though hands-on STEM learning. That mission is facilitated through participation in the FIRST Lego League program, which guides youth through STEM learning and exploration at an early age. First Lego League’s youngest group, called “Explore,” is for elementary grades one through three. So this year, my seven-year-old son was finally old enough to join and we immediately signed him up. Shortly after, the school started to send emails requesting volunteers to coach teams.
My initial exposure to FIRST robotics came when my son joined the Cedar Falls High School robotics team as a sophomore back in 2012. At that time, I thought it would be a fun little activity for him to be involved with. I really had no idea what being a part of a FIRST team meant. Boy, have I come a long way.
Now, seven years later, I do know what it means. As it turns out, there is nothing “little” about it. It is the most….
DISTek has been supporting FIRST® programs for many years through donations of time and financial support. This past March, DISTek was a sponsor of the Iowa Regional, which featured FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams, and took place on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. The four day competition featured robot matches where two teams of three robots navigate a field to test each robot’s engineering prowess.
DISTek has been encouraging youth in STEM and problem solving by sponsoring FIRST teams for many years. This year is no different. DISTek is sponsoring ten FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams and eight FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams. We will also be sponsoring FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams when their season officially kicks off in January. In addition, we have ten DISTek team members that have committed their time to either coach or mentor teams.
Along with two other employees at DISTek, I received the privilege to be a judge at the Iowa regional FIRST Robotics Competition. The theme this year was steampunk and teams needed to work cooperatively to power a Victorian era steam powered airship.
Have you ever wished you were a Jedi with the power of the force such that with the wave of your hand, droids would fall backward? I created a simple LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robot to provide that power to anyone. This LEGO robot with the program I call “The Force” has been a hit among children at STEM fairs.
I am a champion/advocate/passionate believer in STEM and the value of the FIRST® programs. I have written multiple blogs on the subject and shared what I view as the value of the FIRST programs. My involvement started with FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) over six years ago primarily because my daughter was old enough to join FLL (and who doesn’t like LEGOs?). Today, my whole family is actively involved not just during the season, but off-season as well. Instead of giving my perspective again, I would like to share a team member’s perspective, namely, my daughter, Megan, who is part of a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team that competed at the FIRST Championship competition in St. Louis this past season.
Recently, the Cedar Valley hosted the first Iowa Regional for FIRST® Robotics Challenge (FRC®) on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa. This was an effort of many years by many who have seen the value of the FIRST programs. DISTek® has been a sponsor of the Cedar Falls High School Swartdogs (team 525) since 200? and sponsored many other FIRST teams financially and/or through coaching or mentoring.
On Friday May 1, DISTek hosted about 50 junior high ALPHA (Talented & Gifted) students from Holmes and Peet Junior Highs in Cedar Falls. These students completed a 6-week unit in January and February on careers and were interested in engineering fields. The purpose of their visit to DISTek was to learn more about the various types of engineering.
DISTek fully supports STEMS (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education and the development of the next generation of engineers. Many DISTek employees have volunteered to work with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League programs at the elementary school level, and robotics programs at the secondary school level.
The FIRST website describes the program: