Five Outstanding Community Organizations Awarded STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants from FIRST

MANCHESTER, N.H., August 16, 2023FIRST®, a robotics community that prepares young people for the future, today announced the disbursement of five STEM Equity Community Innovation grants to address inequities in access to science and technology for children in countries around the world. The grants directly support students from underserved and underrepresented communities and help community leaders develop new, innovative approaches to close the STEM education gap.

FIRST launched its STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants program in 2016 to provide historically marginalized students across the globe with hands-on learning and creative problem-solving opportunities. For the past seven years grants ranged from $5,000 to $50,000, with an average of $45,000.  For 2023, grants have increased to an award range of $30,000 to $70,000, with an average of $58,000.  These highly competitive grant evaluation criteria include community need, population of students served, increases in diversity, execution strength, track record of reaching all students, and the value of the activities proposed. To date, FIRST has awarded 83 grants totaling $3M to grantees around the world.

FIRST is thrilled to award STEM Equity Community Innovation grants to five outstanding organizations that will provide students around the world with STEM opportunities,” said Dr. Janell N. Catlin, Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at FIRST. “FIRST is dedicated to expanding STEM engagement for youth, and for 2023 grantees include several FIRST Program Delivery Organizations. We are looking forward to the transformative impact we will see in communities that receive these grants.”

FIRST sponsors provide generous support and a continued commitment to Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at FIRST. Their support enables FIRST to explore, develop and implement strategies to become more inclusive and ensure access to FIRST program for all students.

Grantees will receive resources and support from FIRST as they develop their community-wide programs incorporating FIRST® Robotics Competition, FIRST® Tech Challenge and all three divisions of FIRST® LEGO® League.

The 2023 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant award winners include:

Cox Science Center and Aquarium, West Palm Beach, Florida

Through the “Open Every Mind to Robotics Program”, the Cox Science Center and Aquarium will expand the FIRST Robotics program to a more diverse population for the upcoming year by developing FIRST LEGO League outreach programs and experiences for the Science Center that reach historically marginalized populations. The Science Center will also implement the FIRST Robotics program in 10 Title I schools from the Palm Beach County School District. A total of 1740 students will be impacted by this program, with a total of 22 new FIRST LEGO League Explore and FIRST LEGO League Challenge teams formed.

East Harlem Tutorial Program Inc., New York, New York

The East Harlem Tutorial Program (EHTP) is designed to remove barriers and provide all students with the opportunity to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM). EHTP will offer STEAM opportunities to 150 students who live in or attend school in East Harlem by increasing access to program participation through 6 new FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge teams and supporting their existing FIRST Robotics Competition team. Through the expansion of their FLL programs and upgrading their robotics lab, they will make a real and lasting impact on the lives of their students and their families.


Juneau Economic Development Council, Juneau, Alaska

The Juneau Economic Development Council (JEDC) will create a total of 20 FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge teams serving approximately 150+ students in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. The JEDC will provide support to teams through product distribution, scheduling, and transportation services to remove some of the major barriers in this remote area. This grant will also provide more STEM opportunities to Alaska Natives and rural communities by providing in-person support and training to students and coaches and through the start of a FIRST LEGO League Challenge competition event in the Bristol Bay region.


KC STEM Alliance – UMKC Foundation, Kansas City, Missouri

The KC STEM Alliance will partner with Kansas City public school district leadership to place FIRST LEGO League teams in 22 elementary schools across the Kansas City metropolitan area.  This grant will provide equipment, training, and community connection through the teams and qualifier events to create a greater sense of belonging and inclusion for all students. To remove an additional barrier, a qualifier event will be held within the district/metro area on a Friday during the school day. School district leadership has agreed to offer this event as a field trip opportunity to all students and teachers to attend.


South Dakota Discovery Center, Pierre, South Dakota

The South Dakota Discovery Center (SDDC) will lead a community-centric focus to empower community members to coach FIRST LEGO League Discover, Explore, and Challenge teams through training and mentoring and assist students to recover from the impacts of the pandemic through authentic STEM exploration opportunities that build life and career skills. SDDC will focus specifically on: hands-on, in-person training for 20 coaches, culturally inclusive mentoring for three new teams in Eagle Butte (Cheyenne River Reservation), and creating 5 teams in rural South Dakota (focusing on safe spaces for female and non-binary students).

The 2024 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
  • Thought Leadership activities including presentations, blog posts, and articles
  • Partnerships with youth serving organizations
  • AmeriCorps program supporting underserved communities in the U.S.
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion training and resources for FIRST HQ Staff, volunteers, coaches, and youth

Through these initiatives, and with the support of our sponsors, FIRST is making STEM more accessible to students nationally and internationally. To learn more about our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, please visit


FIRST® is a robotics community that prepares young people for the future through a suite of inclusive, team-based robotics programs for ages 4-18 (PreK-12) that can be facilitated in school or in structured afterschool programs. Boosted by a global support system of volunteers, educators, and sponsors that include over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies, teams operate under a signature set of FIRST Core Values to conduct research, fundraise, design, build, and showcase their achievements during annual challenges. An international not-for-profit organization founded by accomplished inventor Dean Kamen in 1989, FIRST has a proven impact on STEM learning, interest, and skill-building well beyond high school. Participants and alumni of FIRST programs gain access to education and career discovery opportunities, connections to exclusive scholarships and employers, and a place in the FIRST community for life. Learn more at