Five FIRST-inspired Classroom Activities for Computer Science Education Week

Nov 30, 2021 By Tammy Pankey, FIRST Sr. Manager of Curriculum, and Libby Simpson, FIRST Education Director




FIRST Educators Recognition Program


Parents, students, educators, and industry experts agree on one thing, we need more STEM professionals, particularly in computer science. In 2021, computer science occupations continue to be the most in-demand and fastest-growing sector of all projected new jobs in STEM fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to what our labor market needs, students agree that computer science and engineering are some of the most fun and engaging topics in school. At FIRST, we embody the intersection of both computer science and engineering: ROBOTICS! The field and study of robotics is a multidisciplinary area that combines electrical and mechanical engineering with computer science. At FIRST, we put this study into a fun, hands-on challenge that has real-world relevance.

Computer science involves critical thinking about how best to solve a challenging problem combined with imagination to see the world differently. Whether creating a sophisticated algorithm or persevering through debugging a program, computer science increases appreciation for solving complex problems and provides the framework to solve new ones. Beyond problem-solving and saving the world, computing is now an integral part of our everyday lives. Computer science offers excellent opportunities for true creativity and innovation. Future possibilities in computer science are limitless!

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) Activities 2021

We are excited to share CSEdWeek activities that you can do with your students each day of Computer Science Education Week 2021 from December 6 – 10.

  • Monday – Introduce students of all ages to computer science topics with the FIRST Kahoot on Computer Science.
  • Tuesday – Participate in a 2021 Hour of Code event on
  • Wednesday – Using lesson 2 of the FIRST @ Home curriculum series, have students complete a computer science activity.
  • Thursday – Using lesson 8 of the FIRST @ Home curriculum series, have students complete a computer science activity.
  • Friday – Watch a Galactic Builders episode about how Zander Dejah, an engineer at ILM x LAB, turns imagination into virtual reality experiences. After the video, have students brainstorm their own VR story about a tall tale and solve a puzzle or create an innovative idea that uses technology and coding to help people.


Computer Science All YEAR with FIRST - The Fundamentals of Computer Science

A fundamental part of computer science is teaching computational thinking. There are four aspects to computational thinking.

  • Decomposition: Students break down complex problems into smaller, simpler problems.  
  • Pattern recognition: Students make connections between similar problems and experience.  
  • Abstraction: Students identify important information while ignoring the ones that don’t. 
  • Algorithm: Students follow steps or set of rules to solve a problem. 

Across the FIRST programs, the students complete an open-ended project using computational thinking the engineering design process to solve problems. 

  • Students use decomposition to break down overarching program challenge into different parts that they design and create solutions for. This could include the mechanics of a robot to complete a game task, programming their robot to perform tasks, building a team model, or researching an identified problem and developing a solution.
  • Students use pattern recognition every season with the new challenge presented for them to solve. The students could look for patterns in the season materials like the mat, model, or game field. They will connect the season theme to what they already know and see the real-life connections to their own lives.
  • Students use abstraction to determine the problem they want to solve and how to create their solutions for it. They focus on the important details presented in the annual challenge and how the parts of the program work together.
  • Students use algorithmic thinking to follow steps to create their solutions. They will create their team models or robots that meet the challenge. They will follow the rules and requirements of the challenge or game to create their solutions and even strategize on how to achieve the challenge or compete in the game.

Here are some guiding questions you could use with your students to engage them in computational thinking while participating in FIRST programs.


  • What are the overall challenge/season theme/parts of this program that can be broken down into smaller tasks?
  • What parts are required to create our team model/Innovation Project?
  • How can we use our Engineering Notebook to document all parts of our solution development?
  • How do you understand a game and develop a robot strategy?
  • How do you convert hardware and software into a robot to achieve the game strategy?

Pattern recognition

  • What patterns are in the mat, model(s), or game field?
  • What patterns have been used in models or game elements in past that applies to this season?
  • What are the patterns of how the robot parts or LEGO models work together?
  • What patterns exist in creating programs using the hardware provided?
  • Are there any patterns used in the mechanics and mechanisms used to create solutions?


  • How does this challenge relate to the real world and what you might see in your community?
  • What hidden details are presented in the season challenge?
  • What additional information can you find that will help you solve the challenge?
  • How do you filter through all the information related to the challenge topic and select what is relevant to how you will solve the challenge?
  • Can you use data or conduct research and present findings that apply to your solution?


  • What steps do you need to follow to create a solution to the challenge?
  • How did you create your solutions (robot, project, game)?
  • What are the steps that your robot will follow to compete in the game?
  • What is the plan for your game strategy?
  • How did you build a solution to the tasks presented in the session?


Computational thinking skills are used across a variety of subjects and fields beyond computer science. Every day, we must solve problems and make decisions and students who develop these skills are better equipped to solve challenges in the future.


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