FIRST Announces 2016 STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant Winners

Grant provides underrepresented and underserved students from 10 communities access to creative problem-solving and hands-on learning opportunities

MANCHESTER, N.H. – July 21, 2016FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) today announced 10 winners of the 2016 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants. The grants, made available to increase access to FIRST programs for underrepresented and underserved students, will help more communities develop new and innovative approaches to address equity, inclusion and diversity inequalities in STEM (science, technology, education, and math) fields.

FIRST launched the STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants this year to ensure more of the targeted students and communities are exposed to creative problem-solving and hands-on learning opportunities. Applications were evaluated based on their alignment with FIRST in its goal of increasing diversity; demographics affected; community need; execution strength; track record of serving targeted students; and the value of proposed activities. Grants ranged from $5,000 to $50,000 with an average of $35,000.

“As the demand for qualified STEM professionals continues to grow, inequalities in education and afterschool programs have affected students of color and female students’ ability to excel in these fields,” said Donald E. Bossi, president of FIRST. “Through these grants, we are proud to lay the foundation for more successful futures by providing opportunities for 4,200 students in nine states and one Canadian province to gain new skills and real-world experiences. For their communities, this opportunity offers practical workforce development and equity solutions that otherwise have been unavailable.”

Grant Sponsors include Alcoa Foundation, Boeing, and Microsoft, among others. Grantees will receive resources and support from FIRST as they develop their programs.

The 2016 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant award winners include:

  • Alberta First Nations Robotics Capacity Building (Barrhead, Alberta, Canada): The Alberta Distance Learning Centre is a public online school serving 600 schools and 40,000 students annually. Working with aboriginal communities, the grant will help start five new FIRST teams to introduce First Nations and Metis students to robotics.
  • Diversifying Delaware’s STEM Workforce (Wilmington, Delaware): The Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware and Delaware State University will diversify Delaware’s future STEM workforce through the FIRST® LEGO® League program, focusing on at-risk African American, Hispanic, Latino and female students.
  • F3 Idaho Project – FIRST Fueling Futures (Boise, Idaho): The Idaho AfterSchool Network and its coalition will increase the diversity of FIRST participants across Idaho and address the disparity in participation among rural, female, minority and economically disadvantaged students.
  • FIRST Steps Toward Building Community in Socorro Through STEM (Socorro, New Mexico): The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and its partners will expand community participation in FIRST programs with a focus on underserved Hispanic, Native American and female students.
  • Girls Inc. STEM Programs and FIRST LEGO League (Omaha, Nebraska): Girls Inc. of Omaha will promote activities that build STEM awareness and knowledge, problem-solving, teamwork and more to girls at two Girls Inc. sites in Omaha.
  • Meadowcreek High School Cluster Robotics & Computational Thinking Program (Norcross, Georgia): The Meadowcreek Cluster will expand its robotics education and computational thinking training in elementary and middle schools while providing high school students the opportunity to mentor younger peers.
  • Minneapolis Equity Robotics Project (Minneapolis, Minnesota): The Shingle Creek Neighborhood Association in cooperation with Minneapolis Urban Robotics Alliance (MURA) and other collaboration partners, will provide underserved youth the opportunity to participate in urban FIRST® Tech Challenge teams.
  • NERA Deaf and Hard of Hearing Reverse Inclusion Teams (Charles City, Iowa): The Iowa School for the Deaf will provide access to FIRST programs through a strategy of “reverse inclusion.” Teams will be started by deaf and hard-of-hearing students in mainstreamed settings and others will be invited to participate.
  • S.A.Y. Play Robotics. Think Robotics…S.A.Y. Detroit! (Detroit, Michigan): S.A.Y. Play, a youth community center which uses sport as the hook for academic achievement, will give 60 students access to robotics and connect them with positive role models.
  • STEM Infusion – Columbus Coalition (Columbus, Ohio): Columbus City Schools will collaborate with industry professionals, nonprofits and higher educators to create a diverse and inclusive learning community for local underserved students.

The 2017 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant application process will open in the fall of next year, and grants will be awarded to a mix of current and new recipients. More information will become available at