FIRST Announces 2017 STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant Winners

Underserved and underrepresented students from 17 communities to receive grants facilitating hands-on learning and problem-solving opportunities

MANCHESTER, N.H. – August 3, 2017FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) today announced 17 grants to support the development of new, innovative approaches to address equity, inclusion and diversity inequalities in STEM (science, technology, education and math) education, focusing on communities with underserved and underrepresented students.

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 for 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.

“Hands-on STEM experiences open doors for kids no matter which careers they choose, but students don’t always get access to this type of learning in their classrooms,” said Donald E. Bossi, president of FIRST. “These grants empower educators and community leaders to offer access to quality, impactful STEM education experiences to all kids, regardless of their location, gender, race or any other demographic indicator so that they can reach their full potential.”

Grant Sponsors include Arconic Foundation, Qualcomm Incorporated, Caterpillar, GM, GitHub, John Deere and New York City individuals, among others. Grantees will receive resources and support from FIRST as they develop their programs.

The 2017 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant award winners include:

  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (Niceville, Florida): The Coalition for STEM Success in northwest Florida will address STEM equity in the 16 counties of the Florida panhandle by providing robotics training to underrepresented/underserved students. The Coalition will create 15 new FIRST® LEGO® League teams and 28 new FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. teams, supporting 120 and 168 students, respectively.
  • Compton Unified School District (Compton, California): The Compton (California) Unified School District will increase the number of African-American, Hispanic, Latino and female students pursuing STEM pathways by expanding its robotics programs in elementary and middle schools while heavily promoting STEM ambassadorship in its FIRST program alumni.
  • CORI (Center of Robotics Innovation a program of the PAST Foundation) (Columbus, Ohio): CORI’s Girls Who Lead Robotics program will create 21 new FIRST teams in Ohio by providing immersive student experiences and teacher professional development. Teams will be created through partnerships with Girl Scouts of America, Metro Early College Schools, and local partner schools.
  • ELiTE Harlem Robotics Coalition (New York, New York): ELiTE’s Harlem Robotics Coalition will establish a new, multi-site network of school- and community center-based robotics programs within Upper Manhattan’s Community School Districts 4, 5 and 6. The coalition will bring together traditional educators, universities and corporate partners to provide academic enrichment and industry exposure to their students.
  • F3 Idaho 2.0 Project (Boise, Idaho): The F3 Idaho 2.0 Project will launch a three-part action plan to support startup teams, create a foundation for future team expansion and set the stage for self-sustainability. The program will include a peer mentoring program between veteran and new FIRST teams, and training will be developed in partnership with the University of Idaho Extension 4-H Robotics.
  • Fr. Maloney's Boys Haven, Inc. (Louisville, Kentucky): Boys and Girls Haven is a residential program providing a home and a future to many of Kentucky's most vulnerable young people. The program will launch three FIRST® Tech Challenge teams, with a FIRST® Robotics Competition team to follow.
  • Girl Scouts of Greater New York (New York, New York): 17 FIRST teams made up of 105 New York City Girl Scouts will participate in the Girl Scouts of Greater New York Robotics Program, delivered by trained Girl Scout troop leaders in partnership with FIRST and the New York Hall of Science.
  • Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming (Billings, Montana): Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming is already actively involved in FIRST programs, and the new grant will place 130 girls on 15 all-girl teams, doubling the chapter’s number of teams.
  • Meadowcreek High School Cluster Robotics (Norcross, Georgia): Meadowcreek High School will expand its existing FIRST LEGO League programs, create FIRST LEGO League Jr. teams and increase the use of robotics and coding in an interdisciplinary manner. It will also provide professional development for teachers, coaches and community members, facilitate community outreach in the form of robotics camps and expose students to new STEM experiences.
  • Pendleton County 4-H Leaders Association (Franklin, West Virginia): “Making the Best Better” through 4-H and FIRST in Pendleton County, West Virginia, is a dynamic collaboration that will field 10 FIRST LEGO League Jr. and FIRST LEGO League teams engaging 72 4H participants, many of whom are underserved and underrepresented.
  • Pioneer Project (Norman, Oklahoma): The Pioneer Library System will partner with the McLoud Public School System and the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma to form three FIRST LEGO League Jr. teams in the rural community of McLoud, Oklahoma.
  • Power to Choose Robotics (Calgary, Alberta): Power to Choose provides First Nations youth in Southern Alberta, Canada, with career power of choice through STEM. The grant will start new FIRST teams and support existing ones in three nations through collaboration with community, educators, industry and indigenous mentorship.
  • S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center (Detroit, Michigan): SAY Play serves more than 40 students and will expand its FIRST programs to include its first FIRST LEGO League Jr. team and add additional FIRST® Tech Challenge teams. The grant will also allow SAY Play to recruit additional coaches and host robotics competitions in its community.
  • Science Prep Academy (Scottsdale, Arizona): “Diversifying STEM for Students with Autism” will use the FIRST LEGO League experience as a yearlong project-based learning opportunity. Community support will include a partnership between Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
  • St. Martin Parish (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana): At St. Martinville Primary and Early Learning Center, two rural schools in southwest Louisiana, 32 students will create the school system’s first-ever FIRST teams. These predominately African American, low-socioeconomic students will be afforded opportunities to learn, grow, compete and flourish in STEM.
  • YMCA of Central Maryland (Baltimore, Maryland): The Y in Central Maryland will inspire girls in Baltimore middle schools to pursue STEM-related education and careers through its STEM 101 para las latinas clubs.
  • YouthLink (Seneca, South Carolina): YouthLink STEM Academy in South Carolina will create 144 FIRST LEGO League Jr. teams and provide quality STEM programming and mentoring to 864 underserved and underrepresented students.

The 2018 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant application process will open in the fall of this year, and grants will be awarded to a mix of current and new recipients. More information will become available at


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 $50 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