Page 28 - THE Journal, October/November 2018
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principals wanted to hitch onto that star,” noted
Krispen. “And then the past two years that’s what happened.”
Most of the schools in the Mounds View dis-
trict deliver the ro- botics as an outside program—not even
as an after-school event. Each team is parent-led, and it’s all
laid out into 12 weeks of meeting activities,
carefully explained step- by-step in a FIRST-provided guide. “It’s laid out so simply,”
said Krispen, “that anybody can follow it. All you have to do is be able to read.” Some teams meet every other
week, others twice a week. Some gather in private homes, and others meet at school. FIRST provides all kinds of support to
simplify the job of an all-volunteer corps delivering robotics education to students. For example, Krispen, who called herself “the coordinator of coordinators,” couldn’t do her job with FIRST’s help. “Because I’m coordinating for 70 teams, I’m constantly calling FIRST and asking questions.” The organization provides videos, tutorials, posters, logos, flyers and replacement pieces when something goes missing in the kits, she said. When a principal calls to say she needs to make a speech to new parents and wants to introduce them to the robotics program, Krispen can head to the FIRST website and “usually it’s already there.”
Some schools work through their parent- teacher association; others provide a staff member, such as a science specialist, who handles handing out registration forms, tak- ing them in and setting up the teams.
Hooking Students
into Academics
Why are educators so excited? A program where students can go play with LEGOS and make LEGOS move “is
so fun and exciting, a kid who teachers
have a hard time reaching is willing
to jump into that and be part of that team,” she observed. “All of a sudden, they’re realizing, ‘Hey, I’m using simple machines to get my robots to do things, and we just had a simple machines unit in science.’ It’s a way to hook them back into the academics.”
As a result of exposure to LEGO League Junior, Krispen noted, “I’ve seen kids’ lives completely turn around.” As she explained, “I’ve had kindergarten teachers tell me that they can pick out the kids who have been through the programs because of their ability to work as a team and do compromise, take turns and listen to other people’s ideas and be respectful, which is very hard to teach kindergartners. It’s all done with LEGOS to suck the kids in. That’s what tricks them into doing it.”
At the middle school and high school levels, added Norton, students who participate “speak in front of adults at the competition and at the demonstra- tions and to companies to try to get sponsors.” As an example, his daugh- ter’s team, the Ponytail Posse, was “always impressing adults about how well spoken they were.” The teachers also notice it when those students are doing presentations, he said. “There’s
a marked difference between kids that do FIRST and the kids that don’t.” Krispen often hears from teach-
ers in the upper grades (grades 4 and higher) that participating students have a “stick-tuitiveness. They’re willing to try over and over even when they fail.” She thinks that comes from working with
the technology. “You could build that robot perfectly, and it’s still going to fail. So you keep trying to perfect it, but you [learn] that failure is part of the process. That’s something that they try to teach in the schools, but it’s really hard. That carries over into almost everything else— math class, English class.”
It’s true that as students get older, some of them drift away, which is “totally fine, according to Krispen. “I’ve known lots of [students] who leave and then

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