FIRST Announces 2020 STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant Winners

Twelve Community Organizations Receive Grants to Provide Hands-on Learning and Problem-Solving Opportunities to Underserved and Underrepresented Students

MANCHESTER, N.H., September 15, 2020FIRST®, a robotics community that prepares young people for the future, today announced twelve grants to address inequities in access to science and technology. The grants will support students from underserved and underrepresented communities 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 students and disadvantaged 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 49 grants totaling $1.9M across the United States and Canada.

 “Thanks to the support of our generous sponsors, FIRST is proud to continue its commitment to fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEM education. For a fourth consecutive year, we can offer FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants to several communities across the country, making STEM enrichment opportunities available to thousands of students from underserved and underrepresented communities,” said Nancy Boyer, Director of Evaluation and Impact and Interim Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at FIRST. “Now more than ever, we need to empower students of all different backgrounds and social circumstances to help solve the world’s biggest problems. We hope these resources will help so many more students build the self-confidence to do remarkable things for the greater good.”

The grant is made possible as part of the FIRST® Equity, Diversity & Inclusion initiative, sponsored by The 3M Company, Apple, Booz Allen Hamilton, Bosch, Caterpillar, Inc., Cognizant Technology Solutions, Dow, Polaris Inc., Qualcomm Incorporated®, Raytheon Technologies, The Walt Disney Company, individuals, and anonymous donors. 

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

The 2020 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant award winners include:

  • LET’S GO Boys and Girls (Maryland): Six schools and youth organizations will sustain existing and new FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge teams to provide STEM learning to over 100 underserved D.C. youth.
  • Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows (Nevada): The Boys & Girls Club will establish new FIRST® LEGO® League Explore Class Packs, new FIRST LEGO League Challenge Class Packs, and support FIRST® Tech Challenge team.
  • Carver Foundation (Connecticut): Through before and after school and summer programs, the Carver Foundation will expand its STEM learning resources with the addition of FIRST LEGO League Explore Class Pack.
  • Generator Makerspace (Vermont): With the support of the University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Science, the project will launch new FIRST Tech Challenge teams to serve the nearly two thirds of the state that live and work in rural, low-technology communities.
  • Newark Board of Education (New Jersey): The Newark FIRST® Robotics Competition Growth Initiative will allow the creation of two new FIRST Robotics Competition teams and enable over 40 new student engineers access to participate.
  • Knox County Schools (Tennessee): The school district will establish new existing FIRST LEGO League Challenge and FIRST Tech Challenge teams, while sustaining FIRST LEGO League Challenge and existing FIRST Robotics Competition teams.
  • Henderson Collegiate (North Carolina): To provide students with equitable and hands-on learning opportunities, the school will launch 14 new FIRST LEGO League Explore Class Packs for the 2020-2021 school year. The project will enable all 400 elementary students to participate in the program.
  • Robotics North Society (Canada’s Yukon Territory): The organization will add new FIRST LEGO League Challenge teams and sustain one current FIRST Tech Challenge team. They will also introduce FIRST LEGO Explore and FIRST Tech Challenge to classrooms through Class Pack. The initiative will serve over 500 students.
  • Idaho STEM Action Center (Idaho): Five new FIRST Robotics Competition teams will be created to provide access to rural students in underserved areas. The project will include coaches’ stipends, 2021 season registration fees and kit of parts, and travel funds for each team to compete in the FIRST Idaho FIRST Robotics Competition Regional.
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (Florida): The Coalition for STEM Success in Northwest Florida will introduce 9 new FIRST LEGO League Explore teams and 36 new FIRST LEGO Challenge teams to schools with underrepresented and underserved students.
  • Caras of the Americas (Puerto Rico): The project will create seven new FIRST LEGO League Challenge teams, providing opportunities to 70 underserved students within six different schools.
  • Richmond Police Activities League (California): In partnership with Salesian Boys and Girls Club, the City of Richmond Community Services Department, and Manifikio afterschool program at Nystrom Elementary, the project will establish five new FIRST LEGO League Challenge teams and support one existing team.

The 2021 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.

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:

  • Grant funds to support FIRST LEGO League Challenge, Explore and Discover.  Class Packs serving underserved communities, as part of LEGO Foundation funding
  • KIPP Charter Schools Partnership
  • Partnerships with youth serving organizations including City Year, 100 Black Men of America, Girls Inc and National Society of Black Engineers
  • VISTA program supporting 37+ underserved communities in the US
  • Equity and Inclusion training for volunteers, coaches and youth

Through these initiatives, and with the support of our sponsors, FIRST is making STEM more accessible to students of all ages and backgrounds. In 2019-2020, the FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation grants made the following impact (the following data is calculated based on data reported by organizations. For 2019-2020, all sites reported youth demographic data, however, this may not include all youth served at each site):

  • 3,003 youth reached
  • 135 FIRST teams reached
  • 99% of youth participants reached were considered economically disadvantaged
  • 45% of youth participants reached were girls
  • 32% 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, New Hampshire, 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; and FIRST® LEGO® League Discover, Explore and Challenge for Grades K-8. 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