FIRST: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology

As part of leading EmBe, I get to experience the impactful programs that fulfill our mission firsthand. Early on Saturday, February 2nd, I had my first taste of the state competition for FIRST® LEGO® League. The combination of robots, funny hats and coopertition© brought teams from across the state to Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The numbers tell a huge impact story: 30 communities, 149 coaches, 447 students, and dozens of volunteers came together to demonstrate their mastery of technology and gracious professionalism.

The purpose of FIRST LEGO League

The purpose? To get kids excited about technology through practicing imaginative thinking and teamwork. By researching a real-world problem; designing, building and programming a robot; and by competing on a table-top playing field and in core values competition. The teams exercised a big dose of imagination as they explored the challenges related to long-distance space travel, presenting their “better than brownies” findings to judges in the project segment.

From there, they tested their core values knowledge in team competition, answering a challenge to demonstrate their ability to apply what they’ve learned and to function as a team.

Core Values

  • Discovery: We explore new skills and ideas.
  • Innovation: We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.
  • Impact:  We apply what we learn to improve our world.
  • Inclusion: We respect each other and embrace our differences.
  • Teamwork: We are stronger when we work together.
  • Fun: We enjoy and celebrate what we do!

For some teams, this was their first year in existence. Others have a tradition that is decades long. All the names are creative, from Lego Lawn Mowers to Surge.

Then, they fired up the robots they designed and programmed, competing to complete a set of tasks as quickly as possible.

According to the FIRST Lego League websiteIt all adds up to tons of fun while they learn to apply science, technology, engineering, and math concepts (STEM), plus a big dose of imagination, to solve a problem. Along their discovery journey, they develop critical thinking and team-building skills, basic STEM applications, and even presentation skills, as they must present their solutions with a dash of creativity to judges.”

Making an impact in STEM

What that translates to?  Getting kids excited about science! FIRST LEGO League makes an impact:  Over 88% (of the participants) are more interested in doing well in school, and 87% have more interest in attending college. EmBe has served as the administrative partner for FIRST in South Dakota for four years, and is excited to continue its decade-long tradition in South Dakota and the program has grown to 62 participating teams.

Our vision is growing as we work with schools and organizations throughout South Dakota to plant the seeds of a team, connecting them to our state-wide network and exposing them to the global inspiration dreamed up by FIRST founder Dean Kamen and LEGO group owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. Their shared belief is that “FIRST LEGO League inspires teams to research, build, and experiment, and by doing so, they live the entire process of creating ideas, solving problems, and overcoming obstacles, while gaining confidence in their abilities to positively use technology.”

My belief? FIRST LEGO League makes technology accessible and fun. It sets the stage for the workplace, tapping into the group’s skills and learning on many levels and arenas. We know it builds confidence and leaderships skills, makes technology accessible, and creates true teamwork.

EmBe is so grateful to all the organizations that sponsored a team or event as well as to the volunteers that come through year after year to coach and support our future innovators.

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