Four months ago, those students came together to form a team called T.E.C.H. (Team Energy Corridor Houston), competing worldwide in the STEM-inspired FIRST LEGO League – thanks to volunteer and parent Shipra Jhunjhunwala who stepped up to be their coach.
Community and school teams of kids nine to 16 from around the globe can compete in FIRST LEGO League, a project-based, hands-on program that introduces students to coding, programming, and engineering in an environment where students work collaboratively to solve a yearly robotics challenge. Students are assigned pre-defined STEM-related missions for teams to accomplish.
And while contending against other others, teams are expected to embrace what First Lego League calls Coopertition – cooperative competition. It’s a core value of the program, one designed to prepare youths for a future of collaborative working situations.
So, when to call went out for tributes to NASA’s 60th anniversary, the newly formed knocked it out of the stratosphere.
First Lego League recognized their birthday video tribute in a blogpost with international reach.
“When this rookie team started their first season, Coopertition was at top of mind,” explains the blogpost. “They asked teams from all over the world to share a picture or a short clip wishing NASA a happy birthday. Twenty-nine other FIRST teams from across the globe…participated, using their own fun styles and local languages.”
The five Energy Corridor students worked tirelessly since August, says Jhunjhunwala.
“This is a wonderful program, the learning is immense,” she explains. “I hope some of the schools in (the Energy Corridor) join the program because the amount of learning – not only math and science learning, but overall the personality it brings forth and the values it follows – I feel is a great experience for any student.”
Jhunjhunwala, an SAP ABAP developer, believes in it so much she sold the idea of sponsoring the team to the company she works for, Crawford Consulting.
The students showed off their team and mission to several interested families during a recent PTO night for Barbara Bush Elementary School in the Energy Corridor.
The idea behind FIRST LEGO League is to help K-12 students discover new skills. There are rules to follow, research to conduct, collaborative opportunities to consider. They build and program robots using LEGOS Mindstorm, a programmable LEGO toy. Every team designs robots to match their skills, from the tiny to rather large.
“Students must come up with a solution for each mission,” Jhunjhunwala explains. “Some of these actually become real world solutions.”
T.E.C.H. is now tackling a new project: First Launch 2019, All Systems Go. They are defining a problem astronauts face during long-term space travel on missions to the moon, mars and beyond. Issues like food, sleeping, and isolation.
“Each team defines the challenge, does research, develops a solution and builds a prototype,” Jhunjhunwala says. “It extends science outside of school.”
But the mission goes beyond science.
“Their competition rubrics require outreach and impacting the community,” says Jhunjhunwala. “Our team also donated a large amount of their LEGOs to a poor school in California. As they learn, the program instills core values like discovery, innovation, collaboration and how their work impacts those around you.”
NASA is a FIRST LEGO League strategic partner.
See T.E.C.H.’s NASA birthday video tribute here.