The first half of the year can be divided into several distinct areas of DC Metro FIRST activities. The DC FIRST staff and local teams have attended many STEM events at the local DC Metro and National levels. These outreach events are designed to recruit teams, coaches /mentors and sponsors. At the national level, DC area teams with students and robots participated at the White House Science Fair, Global Innovation programs at the US Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) and US Department of State, and the US House of Representative Robotics Caucus Meeting. Four students on local DC Metro FRC Teams testified under oath about FIRST and STEM at a Congressional Hearing.
At the local level, DC area teams with students and robots held robotic demonstrations and/or hands-on activities for students. Typically, we have a robot driving activity where the students can earn a robot “driver’s license” which draws kids to the exhibit/booth to learn more about STEM, FIRST and robotics. Parents learn more about how their kids, schools and other organization can get involved. Recently we have supported the “Be a Pilot Day” at the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum, Mortgridge Familiy Foundation sponsored STEMosphere at George Washing University. Both of these events attracted 1000s attendees. They were the two largest outreach events in 2014. We have attended many local county and city STEM events. DC FIRST is a Microsoft Community Partner and holds exhibitions of the FIRST programs over the course of the year at the Pentagon City Mall store.
Upcoming outreach events include the Microsoft Global Conference, Udvar-Hazy Hispanic Heritage Day, DC Police Department “Beat the Street” community based events, the YMCA Thingamajig, DC Humanities, Arts and Technology Faire, and a demonstration at a DC United Soccer match. DC Metro FIRST will be hosting several training sessions for the various program as the seasons begin to gear up. This training is critical to developing the hard and soft skills of coaches/mentors as well as students.
We hold FIRST Robotic Competitions (FRC) Regionals at Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University and the University of Maryland. We host First Tech Challenge and FIRST Lego League tournaments. These tournaments are what gets and keeps most students engaged with FIRST and robotics as they decide on whether careers in STEM are them. Also, these regional events offer opportunities to showcase the FIRST programs. We host many hands on activities, showcases/expos the events. They offer opportunities for FIRST alums and sponsors to volunteer and help at the events.
Donated funds will be used in part to purchase and repair our demonstration robots, purchase field game elements for our hands-on activities, support training of local teams, and other support materials. I plan on using some of the funds to help defray the expenses of the training sessions. Currently teams pay a nominal fee. Once critical levels are obtained we hope to financially support underserved teams.