Lifestyle

Tuesday, Oct 29 2013 06:00 AM

Milano Foundation and AST boost first LEGO robotics club

The Arts Science and Technology Educational Corporation of Tehachapi is a 501(c) non-profit organization that was formed in 2009 to support education in the Tehachapi Valley.

All of our work is aimed at schools in the Tehachapi Valley and we exist solely for the benefit of our students and teachers.

Recently, through a generous grant from the Mark and Jessie Milano Foundation, the AST was able to inject new life into a group of three FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League robotics clubs at Jacobsen Middle School.

The Mark and Jessie Milano Foundation's donation of $2,000 to AST came at a very opportune time. For the past six months, AST had been trying to find a donor that could help us buy three new laptop computers and new robotics kits for these FIRST LEGO League teams.

Most of the teams' old laptop computers could not operate the new programming software for the robots and the few that could had batteries that could only provide power for short periods, if at all. Likewise, the robotics kits the teams used were rapidly becoming outdated for use in the increasingly complex competitions.

Each year the teams compete in robotics challenges that not only hone their computer programming and robotics skills, but also present them with pertinent problems that they could expect to cope with in adult life. For example, this year's challenge is called Nature's Fury and, in addition to learning about robotics and technology, the teams will be working with safety and hazard prevention personnel to create innovative solutions to a problem related to natural disasters.

FIRST LEGO is part of the bigger picture of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. As stated by the founder of FIRST LEGO, Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway Scooter, the goal of FIRST LEGO League is "to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders." One of the ongoing goals of STEM educators is to get more females interested in STEM careers.

The Jacobsen FIRST LEGO robotics team are doing their part, as 13 of the 29 students on the three teams are female.

One team, in fact, consists of nine female middle school students and one male.

The Jacobsen teams are coached by Thane Lundberg, Nate Howard, Valinda Jockinsen and Kurtis Jackson and the overall program is coordinated by Darcy Hubbard.

The teams have a practice competition on Oct. 26, and then competitive meets start in December.

The JMS teams have done exceptionally well in past years, and this year's teams are looking to keep the momentum going forward. Some of the team members are shown below, hard at work building their robots to meet the requirements of the Nature's Fury mission.

Thanks to the generosity of the Mark and Jessie Milano Foundation and the work of AST, a hard-working group of volunteer mentors are helping ambitious and talented students to learn the STEM skills and teamwork that will be needed by our future workforce.

Anyone interested in helping AST or the robotics clubs can contact Joel Beckmann at joelbeckmann@att.net.

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