How Inventors, Institutions, Innovators, Educators and Businesses Collaborate to Forge a Brighter Future for Our Children: Two Case Studies
Mukwonago and Beloit (located about 50 miles apart) are two school districts in Wisconsin, whose students’ paths are not likely cross. However, there is a common thread which the share: students from both districts are equally as excited about technology, and are eager to join in extracurricular activities to create products and solve problems, by putting STEM-related principles to work.
Educators and facilitators at both school districts provide the direction, mentoring and encouragement to makeit possible to happen, understanding that the students’ inventions and innovations will need to be put to the test…perhaps through competition, or possibly in the field. Extracurricular initiatives such these are often halted by lack of funding and/or access to facilities, materials or tools that can take the project from design to reality. This is where Precision Plus. and the Milwaukee School of Engineering Rapid Prototyping Consortium come to play. More on that later.
People may know Dean Kamen as a prolific inventor with more than 150 patents to his name, including the famous Segway. However, Kamen is also well known for launching “FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” an organization whose mission is to “transform culture by creating a world where STEM is celebrated, and where young people dream of being science and technology leaders.” FIRST celebrated its 26th anniversary on March 20, 2015. Kamen explains FIRST in this short video retrieved from their Facebook Page:
Early in the history of FIRST, Kamen enlisted the help of Woodie Flowers, PhD and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, to create the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), where high school teams would compete with robots they designed themselves. Twenty-eight U.S. teams participated in the first competition held in 1992. Today, there are over 800 teams competing globally.
In addition to the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) for grades 9-12, FIRST also sponsors three other competitions: The Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) for children ages 6 to 9, The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for children 9-14 in the U.S.), and the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) for grades 9-12. In all instances, the competitions are designed for young people to “gain self-confidence, develop people and life skills, make new friends, and perhaps discover an unforeseen career path.”
First Case Study. One of the teams competing this year in FIRST is The Mukwonago BEARs (Building Extremely Awesome Robots), also known as FRC Team #930 from Mukwonago, Wisconsin. The team is participating in two regional competitions: Wisconsin Regional (March 18-21) at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Panther Arena, and Buckeye Regional (March 25-28) at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Earlier in the year, FRC Team #930 contacted Precision Plus for support… not financial, but prototyping support. The team needed access to state-of-the-art equipment and technology to design and prototype one-of-a-kind components for their robot. The perfect place to get this accomplished was the MSOE Rapid Prototyping Consortium Center to which only members have access for a specified number of lab hours. As an active member of the consortium, Precision Plus was able to donate lab time for FRC Team #930 to use in time for the competition.
Second Case Study. Precision Plus also had the opportunity to support the launch of Beloit’s FIRST LEGO League for middle school students, The cyBER Team. The program is led by excellent educators and facilitators, with an added layer of mentoring, which is provided by high school students who are also involved in FRC. Through this type of engagement, the high school students are also learning to better communicate and teach. Last November, the cyBER team competed for the first time with great first-time results.
This video documents cyBER Team’s progress during their first year.
Twenty-six years ago, Dean Kamen had an idea, which is continues to grow. Precision Plus is happy to support the school districts of Beloit and Mukwonago and wishes them continued success.