VirginiaFIRST is the Virginia-based affiliate of US FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a non-profit international educational mentoring organization. VirginiaFIRST promotes FIRST's mission to:
· inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting team-based, mentor-based programs that build skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM);
· promote the spirit of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship;
· foster well-rounded life capabilities;
· help today's youth acquire the knowledge and skills needed to compete in the technologically-driven global economy;
· encourage students (ages 6-18) to pursue studies in the sciences, engineering and technology at the college, graduate and post-graduate levels leading to careers in related technical fields.
VirginiaFIRST strives to expose more youth to the excitement of science and technology and the role both will play in their future. To achieve this, we use a dual approach: establish more FIRST programs in communities and generate more outreach activities so additional youth may benefit. VirginiaFIRST embraces FIRST programs to bridge the opportunity gap.
This year we:
1. Expanded the Robot Road Show, a travelling STEM-related project, from pilot to established program, and increased this hands-on activity to impact a greater number of students.
2. Increased the participation in FTC program by more than 100% and engaged many students from schools and after-school programs in underserved and under-resourced communities.
3. Continued the Show and Tell/You Can Do it Too! This program encourages high school youth to participate in community outreach and serve as role models to younger students. High school team members receive training in presentation and public speaking and share their experience of being involved in FIRST with students in feeder middle schools and after-school programs.
4. Continued the STEM Field Trip project which includes at-risk students from underserved communities and to give them an opportunity to see science and technology in use by peers.
Plans for the upcoming year include:
1. Further expansion of the Robot Road Show, STEM Field Trip, and Show and Tell activities.
2. Expansion of our FIRST Mentor Training pilot across the Commonwealth. This training gives community volunteers insight on how best to work with a FIRST team.
3. Expansion of our FIRST Information Sessions to organizations and companies across the state to cultivate and attract additional mentors and volunteers. Students on FIRST teams benefit from technical and non-technical skills gained through interaction with mentors.
4. Expansion of partnerships to secure resources for both programs (workshops, training, outreach activities) and team support.
Since 1999, thousands of Virginia students have had the opportunity to learn ‘by doing’ in a unique “sport for the mind.” Increasing our community outreach efforts, recruiting additional volunteers and team mentors, providing more training and workshop opportunities, and launching FIRST programs in more under-resourced communities with at-risk students are top priorities. We have identified the following critical needs:
1. Programs: $20,000: laptops, materials and technical supplies and equipment to support programs and activities as we move FTC and FRC programs into new communities.
3. Designated team support - $76,000: initiate or support FIRST teams, distributed according to need for registration, parts, tools, materials.
4. Outreach Activities - $10,000: travel, conference costs, equipment maintenance.
5. Workshops, Information Sessions and Mentor Training - $8,000: trainers, materials, logistics, travel.
FIRST was founded in 1989 by inventor/ entrepreneur Dean Kamen, with support from national business/education leaders. Its purpose is to: address the challenges of student engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; make learning applicable and fun for students; provide real-world career applications of classroom learning; attract young women and minority youth to STEM careers; and to provide today's students with the skills necessary to take their places in the 21st Century workplace.
FIRST offers a seamless pipeline of programs for students in grades K through 12. The Jr. FIRST LEGO League (6-9 year olds), FIRST LEGO League (9-14 year olds), FIRST Tech Challenge (middle and high school), FIRST Robotics Competition (high school) follow students up the educational ladder and into the workforce. On the surface, FIRST is an exercise in designing, building, and competing with a robot. In reality, FIRST offers year-long activities that keep students engaged in learning, leading, and expanding their horizons.
In all FIRST programs, teams (students, mentors, parents and teachers) receive identical technical challenges, and collections of parts and materials, and have limited time to devise a solution. Students organize into project teams, and take on responsibilities such as building, programming, marketing, and management. These project teams resemble the dynamics of a small company. All FIRST programs culminate in an exciting competition, which is a celebration of innovation, achievement, teamwork, community involvement, and technical expertise.
Virginia welcomed FIRST to the state in 1999 and, in 2007, VirginiaFIRST was established as the official regional non-profit affiliate organization of FIRST. Its mission is to provide FIRST’s innovative STEM-based opportunities for Virginia students. VirginiaFIRST, guided by its Foundation and Advisory Board, administers the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition programs for middle and high school students. In addition, VirginiaFIRST promotes all of FIRST’s pipeline of programs in the Commonwealth. We work closely with industry, academic, and business partners to develop resources for our participating teams so that they can hone their technical, leadership, and life skills.
VirginiaFIRST has been recognized in a proclamation by the General Assembly and has received two awards for its impact on youth in the Commonwealth.
FIRST is a highly regarded participant in the STEM arena. This visibility opens doors to national business, education and community leaders, and attracts a cadre of volunteers with a commitment to its mission. Our national organization has documented success in changing lives and impacting career decisions, and VirginiaFIRST is building its own success story.
FIRST is unique among organizations bringing STEM-related opportunities to youth, by offering a continuum of age-appropriate programs for 6-18 year olds that build upon skill sets and concepts in a culture of teamwork, mentor relationships, and cooperation among competitors. Our programs use robots as a “hook” to attract students from a broad spectrum of talents and interests, many of whom have never participated on a competition team of any kind. Being part of a team is valued in the workplace. Ultimately, FIRST is about a brighter future for all youth.
Also distinctive is FIRST’s tremendous support structure, which includes partners from a wide range of corporations, technical organizations, colleges and universities. Over $15 million in scholarships is targeted at students on FIRST teams, as well as research and internship opportunities.
FIRST gives us our “culture” of collaboration and cooperation, and provides the brand, programming, and infrastructure of support. VirginiaFIRST has taken these attributes and layered in its own distinguishing features.
1. We have established a FIRST Alumni Association across Virginia. Many of our program leaders are FIRST Alumni, mentors, and/or parents, who understand the culture of FIRST and have helped us to develop the training and hands-on activities to reach an increased number of volunteers and youth.
2. Our VirginiaFIRST Ambassadors, key supporters and advocates, help us promote FIRST programs around the state.
4. We partner and collaborate with organizations such as Virginia Manufacturers Association, regional technology councils, and the Science Museum of Virginia to focus on workforce development, career opportunities, and to share resources and outreach.
5. VirginiaFIRST personnel spend much of their time training, demonstrating, exhibiting, and in outreach activities with FIRST students and robots. This gives teams and volunteers a pro-active role in an interactive format to learn new skills and develop talents in presentation and public speaking.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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