Inspiring future STEM leaders

The gym at University City High School buzzed with the energy and anticipation of a pep rally. However, the teams present came not for a battle of brawn but of brains.

For Washington University undergraduate Mani Raman, the scene at U City’s First LEGO League (FLL) Fall Warm-Up was a familiar one. Raman served as an expert at the presentation help desk at the Warm Up along with four of her peers from Wash U’s School of Engineering & Applied Science.

Raman said that being at the event brought her full circle. “I did FTC, the high school division of LEGO Robotics, for four years,” Raman said. “Our team did a lot of outreach to (the middle school division) FLL. We refereed events like this, ran help desks and many other things.”

Raman and her fellow Wash U students, Zoe Cohen, Liu Mengxuan, Peter Li and Henry Moyerman, volunteered with FLL after hearing about it through the Institute for School Partnership (ISP).

The ISP helps connect volunteer needs in K-12 schools to the people and resources at Wash U through a program called K-12 Connections. Through this program, Wash U students studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can help inspire younger students to do the same by volunteering at events like the FLL Warm-Up.

Computer Science graduate student Henry Moyerman said that he too participated in LEGO events when he was growing up.

“Even just having the students present their ideas to us and having us ask them questions can help them think through their designs,” Moyerman said.

The Warm-Up allowed students to test their LEGO robotic designs and practice presenting their ideas to others. Over the next month, students will perfect their designs before competing in the first qualifier at Brittany Woods Middle School on November 7th and 8th, 2015.

All of the students’ work will culminate at the FIRST Championship in St. Louis in the spring of 2016.

“FLL is a great program and give students a lot of confidence,” Raman said. “It is what got me interested in engineering in the first place… It was life changing for me.”

October 2015   |  by, Gennafer Barajas

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