DISD STEM ExpoTags: motivate, connect, and outreach
Task: Present at the DISD STEM Expo
DISD STEM Expo has been our busiest event this year. Overall, we met with over 1000 participants for both the 3D Printing event and the Sumo-Robots station. Despite the fact that this was a first-time event for many of the members helping out, STEM Expo ran smoothly. The purpose of this event is to spread STEM programs to students in the Dallas area who otherwise would have no access.
We started out by setting up the MXP and the EV3 robots. After ensuring that the MXP was stocked up with laptops and 3D printers, we set up sumo mats, laptops and LEGO Mindstorm Robots in tables outside the vehicle. All the freshmen were given a quick crash-course on how to run the Sumo-Robots session, while the seniors ensured that all of the FTC robots were demo-ready.
Since the participants were of varying ages, one of our biggest challenges was trying to convey the message of actually coding the robot across a variety of audiences. We learned earlier on that the best way to teach younger audiences how to code the robots was by letting them test out each block of code, so that they could get a sense of what they were trying to accomplish.
We also had a few connect opportunities. Best Buy (Geek Squad) representatives boarded the RV to ask about our program. Our MXP is funded by Best Buy - we received a $10k grant from them earlier this season - and this was a great opportunity to talk to them again. We spoke about the history of the MXP program, what it currently does, and our plans to create a new MXP with the $150k in funding that BigThought received as well as our need for an additional $100k. Also present at the STEM Expo were several Microsoft employees. We've worked at Microsoft events before, most notably YouthSpark, and they've contributed to the MXP program, so we talked to them again over the same topics, trying to garner up support for the new MXP.
Our booth could not have operated as smooth as it did without BigThought, for helping us staff and maintain the MXP, and DISD for giving us the opportunity to introduce FIRST to such a large audience. As hectic as it was trying to teach block programming and 3D modeling to students with little to no technical experience, the event ran much more systematically than we could have expected. It was energizing to see children excitedly “battle” their robots, and to see them walk away, waving a 3D-printed keychain. We are incredibly thankful for having been able to interact with the next generation of engineers, and giving them a platform to see robotics as a comprehensible concept.