2020 was the year of grief and unexpected losses. As soon as the COVID-19 started our high-school FTC robotics team was dismantled and our high-school STEM Director was leaving for at least a year. We loved our coach and team The SBS Bears 10738. We were a dream team, the 10th team in the world after the 2020 qualifiers. Our hearts sank, mainly because our coach, Mr. Winston was a person difficult to replace. He was above all a person able to understand and encourage a diversity of skills, points of view, different priorities and working styles. As two first generation Americans we felt welcomed. Next to our coach, both of us felt confident navigating a complex, constantly evolving lab environment in which human skills were as important as the technical ones.
The more we felt our loss, the more we felt the need to be that kind of mentor for other girls and other first generation Americans. What could be done now in the middle of the pandemic? FTC Robotics requires each team to build their own robot from metal and 3D printed parts, but in FLL (8-14 years) the teams use LEGO pieces and the focus is more on programming than on building. Should we mentor FLL robotics, now when everyone was running from younger kids? We already taught robotics over the summer of 2019 at the Emma Clark Library, but we used the Legos of the Library. Also, can one really do robotics via Zoom during peak moments?
I guess we had to try to know the answer. We decided to put to good use the money raised to participate in the Worlds Competition. The Worlds never happened in 2020. We talked to Mrs. Stern from FIRST Robotics organization of Long Island. We bought some competition mats that were used in the tournaments at the production price of 50 USD instead of the hefty 300 needed by a team buying it directly from Lego FIRST. We obtained a total of 20 and together we assembled 21 robots all the same. Together we volunteered teaching robotics over the summer. Neither of us could handle more than 7-8 children if the children were to program by themselves. The regular FLL robotics teams are of ten children, so we were close.
We created a summer club via SchoolNova, a Stony Brook University enrichment program. Since we only had a material fee refundable once the robots and competition mats were returned, the spots were easily filled with kids in 5th and 6th grade enrolled. We asked a former teammate Daniel to join us so that we will be able to have three groups. Only one group were girls, but most participants were first-generation Americans. These kids became our weekly joy. Unfortunately, more kids were willing to participate than the number of kits we could come up with so, we created this site with the lessons to allow more kids to learn.
See the index of our lessons here.
Copyright The Robo Mentors (Anne and Marc)