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Transformative learning through robotics

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Melissa Jackson

Grants Manager, Boys and Girls Haven, Kentucky

Boys and Girls Haven, a residential school in Louisville, Kentucky, received a 2017-2018 FIRST® STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant to open STEM pathways to its students through the creation of a FIRST® Tech Challenge program.

Boys and Girls Haven serves many of Kentucky’s most vulnerable young people. The young people who arrive on our Louisville campus have been removed from their families. They’ve often faced disruptive, chaotic living environments and many have had multiple placements. Boys and Girls Haven shelters, heals, and teaches struggling young people so that they can become productive, healthy members of our community.

Our FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant supported that mission by enabling us to create a stimulating, enriching environment for learning academic and life skills. With the grant funds, we formed and registered two FIRST Tech Challenge teams, one made up of young people attending our campus school and the other comprised of kids who attend local public schools but live at Boys and Girls Haven. The program included career exploration outings to GE and Toyota and a visit to the Kentucky Science Center. In addition, both teams attended two robotics events.

The grant has done so much more than teach young people to build robots. By working through real-world, hands-on challenges, our kids have been given a second chance at authentic learning. Two students in particular have shown a real aptitude for the project in a way that even surprised them. One of them shared the following: “Being in robotics has made me want to do more with electronics and engineering. Being on a FIRST Tech Challenge team has encouraged me to do better in school and be more involved in everything I do. It has taught me to realize that I don’t have to be in control of every aspect of building the robot. I now understand what it means to be a part of a team, have patience, and lead others.”

Learn strategies Boys and Girls Haven and other high-poverty schools are using to bring hands-on STEM programs into their classrooms.

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