For Angelic Covarrubia, volunteering for the First Lego League (FLL) turned out to be much more than a donation of her time. "By volunteering as both an assistant coach and mentor for the First Lego League, I learned how to teach youth," said Covarrubia, Robotics Analysis, United Space Alliance. "I learned to adjust my methods so that each child could learn in their own way and be inspired by engineering and science. I liked sharing my excitement about robotics with the students because that excitement is what drove me to become an engineer."
In the Houston area, the First Lego League is coordinated and administered by Coordination of Robotics Education (CORE), which is an educational outreach program of the College of Technology at the University of Houston (UH). CORE was founded to provide youth robotics programs that will motivate students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields throughout their education, and to pursue STEM related careers.
"FLL is a youth robotics program for 9 to 14 year olds, which is designed to get children excited about science and technology, and teach them valuable employment and life skills like project management, problem analysis and teamwork," explained Karen Cohen, Program Director, CORE, UH. "FLL can be used in a variety of settings including classrooms, organizations, homeschools or neighborhood groups. Teams of up to 10 children build and program LEGO-based robots which run an obstacle course to accomplish missions. Currently, we are seeking coaches and mentors to work with local teams."
Covarrubia volunteered as both an assistant coach and mentor for 3 years. "I made sure we had all the necessary paperwork for the competition, and that rules were followed," added Covarrubia. "As a mentor, I worked with 4th and 5th graders and helped keep them motivated and inspired during the project."
Coaches provide guidance, structure, encouragement and a fun experience through ongoing leadership at team meetings and at events. Mentors are role models who provide valuable insights and fresh perspective to the team through their expertise. Mentors also encourage the team to find their own solutions and help regulate team dynamics, such as ages, team size and gender to ensure all team members participate.
Covarrubia explained, "Eco-bots was the name of our team and our name tied into the theme of our project. We placed 1st in Robotics and 1st in Championship and moved onto the FLL World Series, where we placed in the middle. We had a wonderful time and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the kids as they built the robots."
"My advice to potential volunteers is to have lots of patience, take breaks to help students stay focused, have flexibility in order to help the team, and be motivated to teach the topic," commented Covarrubia. "Please also note companies can help sponsor the FLL and the FLL can help fulfill company volunteer hours. It is a great program!"
Covarrubia is currently volunteering as a judge for FLL.
The University of Houston’s College of Technology and Statoil invite you to volunteer as a coach or mentor for the FLL. For more information on how to volunteer, please visit: www.core.tech.uh.edu