Monday, December 14, 2015

Robotics Success Symbol of Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois' Dedication to STEM

GSSI Robotics teams had great success during recent FIRST LEGO League (FLL) regional qualifying tournaments in November and December, indicative of GSSI's commitment to bringing  girls relevant, exciting opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

FLL is a robotics program for 9 to 14 year olds which is designed to get children excited about science and technology, as well as teach them valuable life skills. Along with programming robots, teams are also evaluated on an elaborate research project, as well as how well they demonstrate FLL Core Values, which include teamwork, collective learning, active participation and gracious professionalism. After practicing and preparing for months, teams meet at regional qualifying tournaments to be graded on the three elements, with the top teams advancing to state competition.

"Our FLL teams have had an amazing year," said STEM Program Manager Mary Buchanan.  "We had four teams win awards this year and have expanded into two new areas in the southern part of our jurisdiction - Anna and Carbondale.  We would love to continue expanding the robotics program throughout the council because girls love the exciting, team-oriented STEM challenges it offers."

Buchanan also noted that GSSI's Robotics Program has gotten more men involved with Girl Scouts.  "More than half of our robotics teams - including our FIRST TECH Challenge team for older girls -has had a father coaching," she said. "Seeing more dads participating and helping build girls' confidence and skills in STEM is great!"

Career opportunities related to STEM fields are expected to continue to grow and studies show they pay 33% more than non-STEM jobs. However, a recent survey by the Girl Scouts Research Institute found that while 74% of high school girls are interested in STEM, less than a quarter of jobs in that field are filled by women.  Girl Scouts offers numerous program opportunities to encourage more girls to follow their interests to build for a successful future.

"We're so grateful for all of the parents, volunteers and supporters who invest in our Robotics Program," said Buchanan.  "Studies show that girls actually do have a high interest in STEM activities, despite the stereotype.  Providing them with role models, encouragement and interesting challenges helps develop this interest and opens their minds to future opportunities."

Girl Scout teams at the FLL regional qualifier on Dec. 5 at Carriel Jr. High in O'Fallon

2015 GSSI  FIRST LEGO League Summary: 

Teams participating in FLL Tournaments: 

Coding Catricorns and Coach Scott Gilbert, Carbondale
Fire Breathing Hexicorns and Coach Julie Herr, Belleville*
Flower STEMs and Coach Megan Terrell, O'Fallon*
GIR! and Coach Jason Dothager, Staunton*
Knights of the Round LEGO and Coach Winnie Kenney, O'Fallon*
Lightning Storm and Coach Sarah Klosterman, Belleville*
Purple Robot Penguins and Coach Larry Buchanan, O'Fallon*
Robots of the Round Table and Coach Celeste Borders, Anna
Super Weird Awesome Tinkerbots and Coach Krysti Connelly, Troy*
Undercover Upcyclers and Coach Jill Thomas, Albers

Three additional teams hosted by GSSI participated in the FLL program, but elected not to compete.

*GSSI teams in the Metro East were sponsored by The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company.

Award winning teams: 

Purple Robot Penguins had the top score in the Robot Game and took home
the Champion's Award for overall top team performance. 

At the FLL regional qualifier on Dec. 5 at Carriel Jr. High in O'Fallon, two GSSI teams took home awards.  Purple Robot Penguins won the Champion's Award for being the overall top performing team at the tournament.  They also won the Performance Award for having the top table score during the robot game.   The team qualified to compete in the Illinois FLL State Tournament on Jan. 23 at University of Illinois. 

Knights of the Round LEGO during competition.  The young team won the Rookie Award. 
At the same tournament, Knights of the Round LEGO won the Rookie Award, for being the top performing first year team.

SWAT displaying their award-winning research project. 
Also on Dec. 5, Super Weird Awesome Tinkerbots (SWAT) won the Project Award at the FLL regional qualifier at Cassens Elementary School in Edwardsville, for their exceptional research project.

GIR! presenting during judging rounds of the FLL tournament.
The team won the Core Values Award.

On Nov. 23, GIR! won the Core Values Award during the FLL regional qualifier at Carriel Jr. High in O'Fallon.  The Core Values Award honors teams that exemplify the cornerstones of the FLL program, such as teamwork, friendly competition, collective learning and gracious professionalism.

About Monsanto Fund
The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the communities where farmers and Monsanto Company employees live and work. Visit the Monsanto Fund at