For the past two years, science teacher Cliff Sodergren has led teams of middle school students in the FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League challenge, in which “students research a real-world engineering challenge, develop a solution, and compete with LEGO-based robots of their own design.”
This year, upper school students wanted in on the action, so Cliff selected a different program, also offered through FIRST, called the Tech Challenge, in which teams “design, build, and program a robot to play a floor game against other teams’ creations.”
He expects the Tech Challenge to be more rigorous, but still accessible for younger students. Participants will explore computer programming, mechanical and electrical engineering, design process (design/test/redesign), and teamwork and interpersonal coordination.
Cliff hopes the program will provide valuable exposure to real-world STEM challenges, perhaps leading to future summer opportunities or college scholarships.
No previous experience with programming or robotics is required to participate. In fact, though his background is in mechanical engineering, Cliff himself is new to robotics and says he’s learning alongside his students.
To kick off the program, he and three students attended a training offered by FIRST at Florissant Valley Community College. “We’ve ordered some stuff and it’s here,” Cliff says, “but we have no idea what it does yet!”
The team will be figuring that out in meetings during activity block, and on some Saturdays.
The FIRST program emphasizes connecting student-engineers with community mentors. If you would be interested in visiting with the team or contributing your expertise, please reach out to Cliff.