FIRST Team 2219

If it ain't broke…wait a minute

Advancing STEM Curriculum at Brehm Preparatory School

By: Joseph Viscomi

FIRST Robotics (FRC) is revolutionizing STEM education for students with learning disabilities at Brehm Preparatory School. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is “the varsity sport for the mind,” FRC combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time limits, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.  It’s as close to “real-world engineering” as a student can get.

No other robotics competition in the world is designed in such a unique way, and when you “buy” in great things happen! Brehm has bought in and supported Megahurts now for the fourth consecutive year, which was a major rebuilding year for the team. Many gallons of blood, sweat, and tears were poured into this years build and we didn’t win … or did we? Since the program is really designed in such a way to develop the students, encouraging competition AND cooperation, teaching the students problem solving skill, and how to communicate effectively — every body wins.

Compare the students now at the end of a hard season to themselves at the beginning of the season. They are more confident, harder workers, better role models for their piers, and have a hunger for all things science. Throughout the course of the year and season they have become problem solvers, the ultimate solution generators … no matter how unusual those solutions might be!

These students are also unlike any other FRC team as we are currently aware. The makeup of the entire team is primarily composed of students with complex learning disabilities. So we often have to change how me might present information, or teach them in what would seem unusual ways. However after 4 years of refining our methods both students and mentors have created something so unique and so learning driven it needs to be shared! After all is said and done problems that arise when educating students with learning disabilities are not problems at all, but often are gifts. We have observed that each of our students has a spectacular gift and skill set, and when we allow them to leverage that for the benefits of the team they really shine. Sure there is a learning period and frustration might set in from time to time, but when those break throughs occur they are hooked!

I will close this brief article with a reflection which I think screams to the power of this program and our execution of it. In last years graduating class we lost our founding members of the team, who incidentally have developed quite the skill set over the last 3 years. All of whom are going on to STEM programs at major universities, and in one particular instance a student said to me “When I came here I couldn’t even read, now I am going to a top engineering school for mechanical engineering. I never thought this is where my life would take me.”

April 20th, 2010
Topic: Breakaway News, Headline News, Robotics News, Team Produced News Tags: None

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