Students from Paragon Charter Academy’s Robotics Club recently competed in First Lego League® (FLL), a global robotics competition. The tournament inspires young people in kindergarten through high school to engage in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills. The competition also aims to help students and teachers build a better future together.
The tournament provides students the opportunity to participate in hands-on STEM experiences that foster well-rounded life skills including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. Each year, the program is built around real-world challenges that engage children in research, problem-solving, coding, and engineering.
“Success in our modern economy demands a wide set of skills, including STEM knowledge, digital literacy, leadership, strong problem-solving, and team-building abilities,” said Sheetal Rathod, paraprofessional at Paragon Charter Academy. “All students need access to opportunities to develop these highly adaptable skills early and often, so they’re better prepared to take on challenges and opportunities throughout their lives and careers and reach their full potential.”
For the second year, Paragon entered a team of students from fourth and fifth grade, with a fun and creative team name: Paragon Awesome City Shapers (P.A.C.S.). Throughout the tournament, students were required to prepare and present on three judging components, including Core Values, Innovation Project, and Robot Design.
To demonstrate their understanding of the tournament’s Core Values, students needed to express the FIRST philosophies of gracious professionalism and cooperation by demonstrating the following values: discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork, and fun.
The judging for the Innovation Project category required competitors to work as a team to identify a real-world problem regarding building spaces in the community, they then needed to design a solution to that problem, and finally share the solution.
The third component of the tournament asked students to design a robot and program it to perform 13 missions given by the FLL team. Every mission earns the team points after being judged based on their performance during a timed duration in the tournament.
“I am so proud of the team for showing great teamwork,” said Rathod. “They followed all core values and impressed the judges with their presentation skills, innovative ideas, and immediate personal solutions.”
In preparation for the FLL competition, the Paragon Robotics club started meeting at the beginning of the school year. The team met every Tuesday and Thursday after school for an hour. As the tournament drew nearer, the team held extra practices on Saturdays. The team's outstanding performance in all aspects of the tournament helped them to qualify for the State Championship taking place this month.
P.A.C.S. decided to take on the challenge of identifying how to build affordable, energy-efficient, and nature-friendly living spaces from recycled plastic waste, using 3D printing technology. Rathod shared that in addition to providing a strong academic challenge for students now, competing in FLL also helps prepare students for their future careers.
“As the U.S. has transformed rapidly to an information-based economy, employment in science, technology, engineering, and math occupations has grown,” said Rathod. “Since 1990, STEM employment has grown 79% from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, and computer jobs have seen a whopping 338% increase over the same period. STEM jobs have relatively high earnings compared with many non-STEM jobs."