Herb Higgin is an Afterschool Ambassador
Last month I was honored to coach the Michigan City Robotics Team 3936 as they won a spot in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics World Championship competition to be held in St. Louis later this month! This was a fantastic victory, but the success was truly a community effort.
It started with the Indiana Afterschool Network and the Indiana Department of Education’s commitment to get involved with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Our community also stepped up. Michigan City is filled with people who want to give whatever they can, from volunteer time to resources. And I can’t say enough positive things about our afterschool students. These young people kept moving forward even when they couldn’t see any end in sight! I’m so very proud of them!
Our team couldn’t have been successful without the guidance and leadership from our FIRST mentors, our parents and our school administration.
To earn our ticket to the World Championships we competed against 48 other FIRST Robotics teams from Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio and were awarded the “All-Star Rookie Team Award” at the Midwest Regional. The award was based on cooperation, community support, volunteerism, website design, industrial design, innovation and having a diverse mix of mentors.
After the team’s thrilling win, we quickly moved into fundraising mode! It started on the bus ride home from the championships when we accepted an impromptu invitation (offered by phone) to bring Team 3936 to the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner. After the team and students were introduced to the several hundred attendees, we received a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd.
Not All Touchdowns Are on the Field (Indianapolis Star, Indiana)
Three days a week, a handful of players from Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis rotate among Schools 14, 15 and 54, acting as instructors in non-contact clinics for afterschool students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The program introduces children to football by teaching them basic, age-appropriate skills in a positive, energetic and structured environment. The high school mentors learn from USA Football program coordinators and are chosen because of their good grades and leadership abilities.
Scrabble Competition Draws Players to Drexel (Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania)
Philadelphia native John Green learned how to play Scrabble in prison, and since his release he’s been working with local schools and the After School Activities Partnerships (ASAP), an organization established to help children stay productive in the hours directly after school. Last week, ASAP's Philly Plays Scrabble program hosted a free Scrabble event at Drexel University's Bossone Center and Green was there to offer help and a friendly game for any of the 100 Scrabble enthusiasts who showed up and thought they could hack it against a professional, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “Scrabble is great because it teaches you word knowledge, strategy, and camaraderie,” he said. “Scrabble pulls the kids together and increases their reading and spelling skills.”
Former Detective Chief Stresses Mentoring (Port St. Lucie News, Florida)
Lifelong St. Lucie County resident and former Chief of Detectives Pat Duval talked to the Port St. Lucie News about a different approach to crime after a recent near-fatal shooting and a number of assaults in his area. He said he would like to see programs set up after school that involve mentoring the children. Duval’s neighbor Joe Jenkins has secured a location for a neighborhood afterschool program and is looking for funding.
Youngsters Focus on Movie Making (Chicago Tribune, Illinois)
Computer Explorers conducts movie-making programs for kids in classrooms and rec centers throughout Chicago’s suburbs. The group also hosts Claymation classes in which students sculpt their own actor, a robotics program in which they erect the characters and classes with Hollywood-based mysteries. “During the last installment of ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ in LaGrange, the students finalized their films, typing the credits and saving the files to flash drives as moms and dads came to pick them up,” the Chicago Tribune reports.
By Ramya Sankar
Afterschool for All Challenge registration has opened and to kick it off, in honor of last year’s National Afterschool Champion Dean Kamen, we’re issuing a challenge to all afterschool youth scientists to rep their afterschool programs and enter the new "Wouldn't it Be Cool if..." contest to pitch their invention ideas to Dean Kamen and will.i.am. At last year's "Breakfast of Champions," Dean Kamen said our scientists should be treated like rockstars. Well, here’s your chance to hang out with one—and to tell him why he should help you change the world!
Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds has teamed up with i.am FIRST to get young inventors age 10-15 to put down on paper their ideas for inventions that can help "make life more awesome." Four finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of celebrity judges including will.i.am and 2011 National Afterschool Champion and founder of FIRST Robotics Dean Kamen. The grand prize winner will then team up with a leading innovation firm to make their idea a reality. Finalists will be determined partly through public voting, so browse submissions in the idea gallery and vote for the ones you think are most awesome.
Know of a problem that needs fixing? Chances are STEM will help you on your way to solving it. Ask around and see who can help you with your idea. How about a scientist working in a lab, or an engineer designing new gadgets? Special guest experts will also be commenting on contest ideas in the idea gallery to help refine submissions.
There are two tracks for the contest, one for kids ages 10-12 and another for 13-15 year-olds. You can enter as a team or as an individual. The deadline for submissions is March 28 so get those creative juices flowing and submit your idea today!
By Ramya Sankar
|Members of The Flying Monkeys—a team of Girls Scouts from Ames, IA—presented their patent-pending prosthetic to President Obama at the White House Science Fair on Feb. 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)|
On Tuesday, President Obama held the second White House Science Fair as part of his commitment to encourage youth to explore and excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The event convened winners of several STEM competitions from across the United States to the halls of the White House to showcase their projects.
More than 30 team projects representing more than 100 students were on display including a project by The Flying Monkeys, a team of Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa. The Flying Monkeys presented their patent-pending prosthetic that enables individuals to grip and hold items. The team was inspired to design the prosthetic after learning about a young girl in Georgia who was born without fingers on her right hand. The team did their research by visiting a prosthetics manufacturer and an occupational therapist prior to designing and building their prototype. They entered their idea into FIRST Lego League’s Global Innovators Competition in which they competed against 179 teams from 16 countries to win $20,000 to develop their idea.
Do Schools Need a Longer School Day? A Debate (Washington Post Answer Sheet blog)
The informality and flexibility of afterschool programs can provide benefits to struggling students that a longer school day cannot, Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant writes. But funding for them is “painfully scarce.” Contact Congress to tell them to support funding for afterschool programs here.
Utah’s Afterschool Programs Growing But so is Need (Salt Lake Tribune, Utah)
In 2008, the Utah Afterschool Network set a goal to double enrollment in the state’s afterschool programs by 2012 – a goal that it appears to have met, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. “We’ve really grown,” Utah Afterschool Network Executive Director Anneli Segura said. “The need is definitely there.”
After-School Computer Time Builds Confidence (Denver Post, Colorado)
Computer labs that would otherwise go unused now provide afterschool activities for hundreds of students in Denver public schools. The OpenWorld afterschool program lets students choose their activities and self-pace their work, which can range in complexity from digital art projects to advanced robotics. Staff members moderate the program instead of facilitating, and students take turns presenting and defending their work to their peers when they’ve completed a task.
After-School Program a Mix of Academics, Arts (Asheville Citizen-Times, North Carolina)
Read about LEAAP (Learning through Extended Academics and Arts Program), a 21st Century Community Learning Center-funded afterschool program that offers a healthy snack, homework help, academic programs, arts and crafts, chorus and movie making, among other activities.
The Great Robot Race (Germantown Patch, Maryland)
For one evening, the rules were broken at the Germantown Indoor Swim Center as non-humans were allowed into the pool. Afterschool students from the STEM Afterschool Academy at Roberto Clemente Middle School created robots from kits donated by the U.S. Navy to create sea perches, similar to the one BP used to help plug the oil leak off the Louisiana coast in 2010, for an underwater race. Get more information on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in afterschool here.
Taconic Program Gives Students Sense of Fashion (The Berkshire Eagle, Massachusetts)
A 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) afterschool program at Taconic High School in Pittsfield helps students sketch out fashion designs. Designer Dominick Avellino runs the afterschool program and told The Berkshire Eagle, “The kids have now a chance to explore their creative ideas and their own sense of self through fashion drawing. They use color and silhouette in such an unstudied way with such raw energy that I’m in awe of their freedom.” The 21st CCLC program is in the second year of a four year grant.
Mexican Culture through Dance (Deming Headlight, New Mexico)
Afterschool students at Deming High School presented a one hour ballet and Folklorico dance for their Christmas concert. Through music and dance, the concert shared the cultural traditions from the different states of Mexico. The students presented 13 different cultural dances.
Rancho Cucamonga Businesses Work Together to Provide Holiday Joy for More Than 140 Children (Inland Daily Bulletin, California)
Earlier this month, Rancho Cucamonga business owners hosted an “ultimate holiday pizza party” for afterschool children from low-income families. The Inland Daily Bulletin reports that the business owners donated backpacks with goodies, soccer balls, free hot chocolate coupons, and more to each child. More than 140 afterschool students who met their attendance goals got to go to the party.
Afterschool students in the Woodberry Park Inventors and Art afterschool program in Toledo are learning about inventors and black history. The program’s developer told the Toledo Blade that the dearth of information about inventors in schools goes beyond race. “Students everywhere aren’t learning about inventors, don’t know how technology is developed, and don’t understand how innovations build on each other.” This week students discussed the origin of the Super Soaker and the importance of patents.
Students Show Artistic Side at Salvation Army (Reading Eagle, Pennsylvania)
Afterschool students from the Salvation Army afterschool program in Reading displayed sculptures, paintings, poetry, short stories, music, dance performances and more at an art show on Dec. 9. Nearly 100 parents, students and teachers attended the “Nobody Like You” themed Manana Art Show.
Junior High Students Put Their Robotics Skills to the Test (The Graham Leader, Texas)
For the first time, six afterschool students from Graham Junior High School (GJHS) were invited to participate in a robotics competition alongside more than 50 area gifted and talented students. A grant funded the robotics sets for the afterschool program and made it possible for the students to participate. GJHS afterschool students won the competition as the overall high point winner and placed third in the “surprise challenge” where the students’ robots had to care for a pet dog using sensors to clean up, walk and feed the dog.