“1,2,3 …. Let’s go LEGOs” might be the sound you hear if you are one of the ten Hill Air Force Base teams that were selected to receive a For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) grant awarded by the National Defense Education Program (NDEP). NDEP sponsors school LEGO robotic teams that are mentored by DoD engineers and scientists. NDEP’s mission is to support the future workforce needs of the Department of Defense. They do this by supporting students in grades K-12 through the use of hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities, opportunities, and resources.
The FIRST grant application period ran from March through April 2012 for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. Teams were allowed to apply for this grant based on the following criteria: involvement of the DoD mentor, commitment to support FIRST teams, interest in supporting a high school and "feeder" team, fair and diverse student population for team roster, engagement of local schools and community organizations, and capacity to raise supplemental funds in the event that the team advances in competition. Once a grant application was completed, it was forwarded to the NDEP robotic committee to decide its outcome. On May 30, Hill AFB was informed that all ten of its submitted teams were awarded their FIRST grants. This made Hill the top recipient Air Force installation for FIRST grants and third overall for the entire DoD. This was made possible due to the support and enthusiasm of students in Utah and all of the hard working volunteers at Hill who continue to support the students and the STEM programs.
The schools who received a NDEP robotics grant are: John C Fremont Elementary, North Layton Junior High, Wasatch Elementary, Cook Elementary, NUAMES, South Weber Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, Stansbury Park Elementary, Entheos Academy, and Sunset Junior High. Each grant will cover the partial cost of fielding a team for FIRST LEGO League (FLL) and FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC). This can include the cost of registration, a field setup kit and a robot kit. Some grant recipient teams will receive as much as $3,500.
The FLL and FRC's schedule will begin in the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. FLL will have its regional qualifying tournament on Jan. 5 or Jan. 12 at Weber State University with Hill AFB co-hosting or at another site -- Layton City Park and Recreation. The State Championship will be on January 26, at the University of Utah. FRC will begin its competition season March-April, and both leagues will finish their season at the FIRST Championship in mid-April 2013.
If you would like to volunteer for one of these events or would like to receive more information on these programs or any of Hill AFB"S STEM programs, please contact Debbie Roach, NDEP STEM Outreach Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 777-4177.