With names like Ozram JR, the Aqua Llamas, and the Rad Red Foxes, our FIRST Lego League teams are distinguishing themselves around the region for their creativity, problem-solving, and team building. We caught up recently with two teams from the New Hampshire Lakes Region to chat about the FIRST program, which, incidentally, seems to be the perfect fit for Girl Scouts who want to explore the world of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Co-coach Briar said the GSGWM-sponsored FIRST program had humble beginnings, noting that neither she nor fellow coach Christelle had previous experience with FIRST. The two go-getting Girl Scouts leaders weren’t discouraged by that fact, and dove into the program head first. Two years later, Briar and Christelle are coaching not one but two FIRST teams after discovering that some of the girls’ younger siblings wanted to join in on the fun.
FIRST, an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an international program, founded by Granite State innovator Dean Kamen, that encourages youth to participate in mentor-based STEM programs.
As GSGWM’s first Junior FLL team, the five fearless Brownies exhibited at the regional FIRST Lego League Jr. Expo in April at FIRST’s Manchester, New Hampshire headquarters. The girls’ hard work certainly paid off! During the Expo, the Rad Red Foxes were honored for their professionalism.
With a season that starts shortly before the school year, the FIRST experience brings with it many important life lessons, as noted by several members of the Aqua Llamas team.
“I’ve learned to keep my cool under pressure,” one sixth-grade Girl Scout said. “I’ve gotten really, really good at research,” a teammate chimed in, with a third Girl Scout adding that the team has, collectively, “gotten awesome at problem-solving!”
Their efforts continue to prove successful. Last November, the four-member Aqua Llamas team took home first place in Robot Design during the Qualifier Tournament at University of New Hampshire. One month later, the FIRST team from the Contoocook/Weare, New Hampshire region competed in the state championships for the first time.
Briar said the regional meets are focused more on fun, despite the underlying elements of competition. “It’s usually about ‘let’s go and see what everyone else is doing’ and ‘where did your brain go with this?’ rather than ‘mine’s better than yours,’” she said. “Each project is different, and we learn stuff from everybody!”
The FIRST robotics program aims to help combat the problem that although girls are interested STEM, many don’t see a future for themselves in these fields. A Girl Scout Research Institute study, Generation STEM: What Girls Say About Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, found that:
- 74 percent of girls say they’re interested in STEM.
- Only 13 percent of interested girls say a career in STEM is their first choice.
- Half of all girls feel that STEM isn’t a typical career path for girls.
But with continued efforts to help bridge the gap between girls and STEM careers, Girl Scouts continues to offer innovative programming and now new STEM badges to girls across the country. In fact, 81 percent of Girl Scouts who took part in a robotics evaluation agreed that because of the organization, they’ve been a leader in more activities with friends, in class, or in their community.
“Not only are they thinking up projects, but they are presenting those projects to adults, and learning public speaking,” Christelle said.
With another season about to begin, Christelle and Briar said they’re both excited to attend the upcoming Farnsworth Weekend where they’ll share all their FIRST stories with other volunteers, hoping to spread how the FIRST robotics program is making a positive impact on our council’s Girl Scouts.
Interested in starting a FIRST robotics team near you? Join us for our virtual webinar on Thursday, September 7. Contact Customer Care at 888-474-9686 to register.