FIRST Announces 2019 STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant Winners

Nine School Districts Receive Grants to Provide Hands-on Learning and Problem-Solving Opportunities to Underserved and Underrepresented Students

Expansion Grants to be Awarded to Two Previous STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant Recipients for Growth Efforts


MANCHESTER, N.H., November 21, 2019FIRST®, a robotics community that prepares young people for the future, today announced nine grants to address inequities in access to science and technology. The grants will support communities with underserved and underrepresented students and help them develop new, innovative approaches to tackle the education gap.   

FIRST launched its STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants program in 2016 to provide diverse and disadvantaged students and communities with hands-on learning opportunities and outlets to creative problem solving. Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000, with an average of $35,000, and evaluation criteria include community need, demographics, increases in diversity, execution strength, track record of reaching targeted students, and the value of the activities proposed. To date, FIRST has awarded 47 grants totaling $1.6M across the United States and Canada.

“We need kids of all backgrounds, capabilities and social circumstances to contribute to innovation and participate in addressing the world’s toughest challenges,” said Donald E. Bossi, president of FIRST. “We hope that these resources enable underserved and underrepresented students to realize their full potential and have the self-confidence to do anything they set their mind to.”

The grant is made possible as part of the FIRST® Equity, Diversity & Inclusion initiative, sponsored by 3M, Apple, BOSCH, Booz Allen Hamilton, Caterpillar, Cognizant Technology Solutions, The Walt Disney Company, Dow, John Deere, Qualcomm Incorporated, Toyota U.S.A. Foundation, United Technologies Corporations, individuals, and anonymous donors. 

Grantees will receive resources and support from FIRST as they develop their programs. 

The 2019 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant award winners include:

  • Abbeville County Schools (South Carolina): The school district will launch FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. and FIRST® LEGO® League teams in its most significantly impoverished schools, bringing equity and opportunity to students who may not have otherwise had access to robotics programs.
  • Cleveland Public Schools (Ohio): The project will start five new FIRST® Robotics Competition teams and support 24 existing regional FIRST Robotics Competition teams. Expanding and sustaining the FIRST footprint will secure a year-round competition venue at the Great Lakes Science Center.
  • Crane Public Schools (Arizona): The school district will establish FIRST LEGO League Jr., FIRST LEGO League, and FIRST® Tech Challenge programs, engaging nearly 400 students. The school district will also provide professional development to 9 teachers.
  • Miami-Dade Schools (Florida): Nurturing the Explorers and Inventors of Tomorrow seeks to increase access to quality STEAM-rich experiences for underrepresented and underserved K-2 students by launching new FIRST LEGO League Jr. teams, providing professional development and resources to teachers, and leading school-based family STEAM nights.
  • New York City Department of Education (New York): The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) serves over 1.1 million students across the five boroughs of New York City. In partnership with FIRST, the NYCDOE will support the creation of up to 16 new FIRST teams in school district 6, which coupled with existing teams, will create the largest concentration of FIRST teams among any community district in New York City.
  • KIPP NYC (New York): In our second year, the support from FIRST will allow KIPP NYC to launch additional 12 FIRST teams (six FIRST LEGO League Jr. and six FIRST LEGO League) bringing it to a total of 30 FIRST robotics teams across all 14 of our K-8 schools.  
  • Palm Beach Schools (Florida): The School District of Palm Beach County will launch a FIRST LEGO League Jr. program, providing training and resources to 24 teachers and 500 students in six Title I elementary schools.
  • Revere Public Schools (Massachusetts): Revere Public Schools will increase opportunities for English Language Learners by starting and sustaining 14 middle and high school FIRST Tech Challenge teams through a storable robotics center sharing materials, tools, mentoring, and space with the district’s FIRST Robotics Competition team.
  • Robeson County Public Schools (North Carolina): The 1-2-3 Full STEAM Ahead Initiative will engage 288 second grade and 300 sixth grade underrepresented students in FIRST LEGO League Jr. and FIRST LEGO League programs.

The 2020 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant will be administered via a nomination process. FIRST will look to field representatives to recommend new locations that need funding and have supports in place to ensure program sustainability. Along with these new locations, FIRST will award expansion grants to previous STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant awardees. The expansion grants will be focused on supporting locations that have had a high success rate with their initial grant and intend to foster continued growth.

FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation grants are just one initiative FIRST has employed in support of equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEM. Other key initiatives include:

  • LEGO Foundation – FIRST LEGO League Jr. “Season Pass” Grants
  • LEGO Foundation – FIRST LEGO League Jr. Discovery Edition Pilot
  • KIPP Charter Schools Partnership
  • City Year, Boys & Girls Clubs, and National Society of Black Engineers Partnerships
  • Girls Inc. and 100 Black Men of America
  • VISTA-Supported Communities

Through these initiatives, and with the support of our sponsors, FIRST is making STEM more accessible to students of all ages and backgrounds. In 2018-2019, FIRST’s equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts made the following impact:

  • 29,800+ youth reached
  • 3,949 FIRST teams created
  • 90% of youth participants reached were considered economically disadvantaged
  • 48% of youth participants reached were girls
  • 45% of youth participants reached were Black/African American

To learn more about FIRST’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, please visit


About FIRST®
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $80 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition for students in Grades 9-12; FIRST® Tech Challenge for Grades 7-12; FIRST® LEGO® League for Grades 4-8; and FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. for Grades K-4. Gracious Professionalism® is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to