STEM Scale-Up Program
We are excited to announce that ISEK FIRST® LEGO® League Explore was chosen as an official STEM Scale-Up Program! This program aims to provide exemplary STEM programs throughout Iowa. All programs mentioned increase student exposure to STEM and the opportunities the field holds. The STEM Scale-Up program has yielded many positive results including better performance on state assessments and a positive outlook on STEM careers.
FIRST® LEGO® League Season and More Goes Virtual
- Guest Article by Camille Schroeder
- Engineering Community Outreach Programs Manager
- Iowa State University
- North Central Iowa STEM Advisory Board Member
There’s lots happening in Iowa State’s Engineering Community Outreach despite the fact that so many events have been put on hold during the pandemic. Situated in the College of Engineering on the ISU campus, this unit has been creating STEM opportunities for Iowa youth with a focus on engineering, for nearly 20 years, through its Iowa State Engineering Kids (ISEK) programming including leading Iowa’s FIRST LEGO League (FLL) programming. The ISEK FIRST LEGO League Explore Program was selected as a 2021-2022 Scale-Up Program of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Initiative.
This year has proven to be unique for a unit used to engaging face-to-face with thousands of kids and families through approximately 100 events a year, but a shifted focus has led way to the creation of virtual events and online outreach instead. FLL teams across the state have been meeting both virtually and through safe social distancing to take part in this year’s season. FLL Challenge teams have been working hard researching and coding their robots to master the season’s challenge of how to get people up and moving. Teams are attending virtual qualifier events where spectators are welcome and encouraged to cheer via chat features for their teams. FLL Explore teams have been scheduling unique, individual review sessions with a panel of professionals who talk with them about their LEGO models, programming, teamwork and creativity. Teams get a unique opportunity to spend time talking in depth about how they have navigated their season and what they have learned.
Throughout the past year, the Engineering Community Outreach team has been creating and posting fun Stay at Home activities with complimentary deeper dives into the content and movies families can watch for further STEM inspiration. Also rolling out are all kinds of opportunities for students and families during national Engineers’ Week, which will be held February 21 to 27. Free and open to the public, folks can take in daily webinars from ISU faculty to learn more about their career paths and passions in areas such as water quality, space travel, innovative design and cybersecurity. Look for STEM trivia contests on social media with prizes and register for an evening where families can do a live virtual engineering challenge. For more details on how to get a FLL team started, learn about events or how to volunteer, check out www.isek.iastate.edu.
Educators who want to participate in the program can apply to be a STEM Scale-Up Educator. In order to apply, you must serve PreK-12 students in or out of school and be prepared to deliver professional development and training materials in Iowa.