Excel Academy of Southwest hosted a recent event of the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), an accessible robotics program designed to inspire students in grades 7-12 to explore and pursue science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The FIRST Tech Challenge helps teach students the value of hard work, innovation, and creativity. It goes beyond competition by educating teenagers about the importance of working together, sharing ideas, and treating each other with respect and dignity.
During their weekly class, the STEM Bulldogs learn principles of physics, engineering, electricity and electric circuit analysis. Then, on Saturdays, they work as lab assistants to design, build, and program a robot based on FTC competition specifications. Through Chicago Public School’s Out of School Time funding for work-based learning, team members earn a stipend to attend the enrichment class to enhance their STEAM skills and compete in FTC.
Tyler, the CTE, physics, and computer science teacher and STEM Bulldogs team coach, teaches the robotics course so his students can develop skills including problem-solving, organizational, and team-building for when they graduate high school.
“I hope the skills they learn in my class help them with everything from coding in college, to understanding manufacturing,” he said. “As everything is done robotically now, they can see how math and science concepts are applied to things they use every day like apps, not just using math to solve a formula – taking it to the next step. Just because kids weren’t successful in their previous school doesn’t mean that they can’t learn STEAM and do these kinds of things.”