Eight Mission-Driven Community Organizations Awarded STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants from FIRST

Eight Grants Will Provide STEM Engagement Opportunities to Underserved and Underrepresented Students

MANCHESTER, N.H., August 31, 2021– FIRST®, a robotics community that prepares young people for the future, today announced the disbursement of eight STEM Equity Community Innovation grants to address inequities in access to science and technology for children. The grants will directly support students from underserved and underrepresented communities and help community leaders develop new, innovative approaches to tackle the STEM education gap.

FIRST launched its STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants program in 2016 to provide historically marginalized students with hands-on learning and creative problem-solving opportunities. Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000, with an average of $45,000, 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 68 grants totaling $2.3M to grantees around the world.

“In collaboration with our generous sponsors, FIRST is thrilled to award STEM Equity Community Innovation grants that provide thousands of students with STEM enrichment opportunities around the world,” said Dr. Janell N. Catlin, Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at FIRST. “This is the fifth year that FIRST is making these grants available, and the first year that we are able to award communities outside of the U.S. and Canada. We are proud to expand STEM engagement on a global scale and are looking forward to working in close partnership as these communities begin implementation.”

The grant is made possible as part of the FIRST® Equity, Diversity & Inclusion initiative, sponsored by The 3M Company, Apple, 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 running FIRST® Tech Challenge and all three divisions of FIRST® LEGO® League. 

The 2021 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant award winners include:

  • InfinityX (India): Overcoming the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic, we strive to make positive impact on lives of 1,000+ students in five urban, semi-urban, rural and remote communities in addition to schools from remote tribal areas of Maharashtra via ethos of FIRST. Our program will have key focus on girls from tribal areas and visually-impaired students, amongst others.”
  • Coderina Education and Technology Foundation (Nigeria): We are working with FIRST and LEGO Education to improve the quality of early childhood education through the FIRST LEGO League Discover and FIRST LEGO League Explore programs in 25 schools and 25 community teams while also continuing to inspire the next generation of African creators and innovators through the world-acclaimed programs FIRST LEGO League Challenge and FIRST Tech Challenge. We are committed to reducing the barriers to access for students irrespective of their gender, social or economic background. Our partnership with the Federal Capital Territory Universal Basic Education, National Library, education ministries and other organizations would guarantee that we create impact at scale most especially beyond the major cities. The real impact for us comes from the empowerment of teachers who will in turn cascade the training to students and make cross-curricular connections.”
  • Hoke County Schools (North Carolina, USA): “The STEM Equity Grant in Hoke County will allow us to bridge the gap we currently have between our computer science activities in the elementary grades and our high school computer science and CTE courses.  The program will embed the FIRST LEGO League Challenge program into the instructional part of the school day for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in our three middle schools.”
  • Eduact (Greece): Our goal is to engage schools in remote areas in order to give priority to students who, due to geographical factors, lack innovative opportunities. Our project aims to implement FIRST LEGO League Explore and FIRST LEGO League Challenge class pack in 10 schools in remote areas reaching 1200 students.”
  • Science Heroes Association (Turkey): “Our project will be run in Diyarbakir, Turkey's tenth most populous city, and we intend to put into service four FIRST LEGO League classes that will strengthen the STEM pipeline among children starting from kindergarten to middle schools. The project plans to reach 2,000 students in total with the FIRST LEGO League program and several pop-up activities with the support of teachers.”
  • Philadelphia Robotics Coalition (Pennsylvania, USA): “We are expanding our programming to ensure widespread access to FIRST programs. Funding will allow us to recruit five new teams at School District of Philadelphia schools, prioritizing high-poverty neighborhood schools, as well as bring 22 existing FIRST LEGO League Challenge and Explore teams into our core program to provide post-pandemic recovery. We are also launching Community Hubs across the city, which will provide shared practice fields so teams from under-resourced schools can prepare for FIRST competitions.”
  • Robots & More (Morocco): “The STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant will allow us to empower more young girls through STEM and robotics. We aim to support 1044 students on 122 FIRST LEGO League Explore and FIRST LEGO League Challenge teams in more than 50 schools. Through this program, and in order to boost the motivation of girls in rural areas, we will work closely with teachers to help them create an inclusive learning friendly environments and encourage and guide learners on how to go about the difficulties they experience.”
  • Youth Fusion (Quebec, Canada): Kahnawá:ke is a Mohawk community situated very close to Montreal in Quebec, Canada. The Kahnawá:ke Education Centre operates three schools, two of which are elementary and one high school. We would like to increase familiarity with and enthusiasm for robotics and computing in the elementary schools by supporting coordinators and teachers and providing them with better resources. We plan to start new FIRST LEGO League Discover and FIRST LEGO League Explore teams, support current FIRST LEGO League Challenge teams and start a new FIRST Tech Challenge team to support these FIRST Nations students living on a FIRST Nations reserve in Canada.”

The 2022 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
  • VISTA program supporting 37+ 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


About FIRST®  
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. 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. Boosted by a global support system of mentors, coaches, volunteers, alumni, 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, and build robots, then compete and celebrate at local, regional, and international events. High school students are eligible for more than $80 million in college scholarships. Learn more at