Our recent story highlighting how Amy Devine has been giving back to the STEM community by volunteering to judge the FIRST Robotics Challenge sparked another story—also in the FIRST world (so to speak).
It turns out that Jim Agniel, Business Development Manager in EIS, and Greg Gurski, EIS Chief Technical Officer, also support FIRST(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) – as coaches of Team 8326, the Vulcan Broncos, comprised of fifth to seventh graders from Vienna VA that competes in the FIRST LEGO® League program.
FIRST LEGO League is one of four programs in a progression of programs offered under the FIRST umbrella for students in grades K-12. Through a special partnership with LEGO Education, this program, for grades 4-8,engages children in playful, meaningful learning while helping them discover the fun in science and technology.
As its name implies, FIRST LEGO Leaguecompetitions involve the creation of robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology. In addition, teams must research a real-world problem, such as food safety, recycling, or energy conservation and then develop a solution using their new knowledge and imagination. Many of these solutions have led to prestigious awards and even U.S. patents, remarkable accomplishments for students of this age.
“FIRST LEGO League is a really great program that gets kids involved in STEM activities—and shows them how they can make a difference—in a very meaningful way,” Jim says. “Last year, the competition theme was ‘Trash Trek™’ so for their project the Vulcan Broncos partnered with a local pizza restaurant to develop a box liner that enables the boxes to be recycled and reduces the amount of paper board that ends up in landfills. The teamresearched the problem, prototyped multiple solutions, collected data, and then presented their findings to the judges in a really entertaining way.”
During competitions, teams are scored on their project concept and presentation, how well their robot performs, and how well the team demonstrates the core values of FIRST LEGO League—teamwork, “Gracious Professionalism®, and “Coopertition.®”
In the Fairfax district competition last year, the Vulcan Broncos placed first in the robot performance category, which qualified them for the VA state competition in Harrisonburg. In that event, the team finished in the top ten in the robot performance category and received a Judges’ Award recognizing their commitment to and demonstration of the program’s core values.
“As pleased as we were with the performance of the robot, it was even more gratifying to see the team recognized for their embodiment of the program’s core values,” Greg says. “Demonstrating respect for others and coming together with your competitors to achieve something meaningful are ideals fundamental to engineering and essential to success in our industry.”
The team has already started meeting in advance of the new season beginning on August 30th. “This year’s challenge theme is ‘Animal Allies™,’ but we won’t know more until the details are revealed to the world at noon on August 30th,” Jim explains. “The competitions begin in November, so the start of the school year is a busy time for the Vulcan Broncos!”
If you’d like more information about the Vulcan Broncos or area FIRST LEGO League competitions, please contact Jim or Gregor visit www.firstinspires.org. If you would like to know more about being a coach, mentor, or volunteer for FIRST in your community, visit Volunteer for FIRST.
 Gracious Professionalism® is part of the ethos of FIRST®. It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.
 At FIRST®, Coopertition® is displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete.