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Grant partnership helps break down barriers to STEM access in First Nations communities

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Alberta Distance Learning Center

FIRST STEM Community

The Alberta Distance Learning Center (ADLC) is breaking down access barriers to hands-on, community-based STEM learning experiences in First Nations communities in Alberta with the support of a FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant. The grant helped establish and grow robotics teams at three First Nations schools, including funding ADLC curriculum development, First Nations teacher training, and a celebratory robotics and cultural event.


Young people from First Nations communities in Canada experience graduation rates that are lower than the Canadian average, often attributed to low attendance rates and skill shortages. To engage students in school and help build STEM literacy, educational programs must provide hands-on, community-based opportunities that align with Indigenous ways of learning, as well as break down barriers to access in their remote and rural communities.

First Nations schools add robotics
In 2016, the Alberta Distance Learning Center (ADLC), which offers flexible distance learning to help students gain skills and earn credits toward graduation, received a FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant to establish and grow robotics teams at three First Nations schools in Alberta. The funding also supported ADLC curriculum development, First Nations teacher training, and a celebratory robotics and cultural event.

Enabling community-based learning
Through ADLC, students could gain access to credits for participating meaningfully on FIRST teams. FIRST LEGO League teams learned to build, program, and present. FIRST Robotics Competition teams built 120-pound robots over six weeks to compete in an off-reserve competition. FIRST engaged the students in STEM and helped increase school attendance.

“We’ve never had robotics on our reserve. We felt it was important to help people learn about robotics because from robots you can launch careers into greater things: programming, building, design, repair,” – Lloyd Verreault, teacher/mentor, FIRST Robotics Competition team “Alexis Tech Warriors”

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