Outreach is a key tenet of FIRST Robotics — speaking to students at science fairs or giving demonstrations at conventions are common ways to accomplish that.
Students at Incarnate Word Academy have leveled up that outreach with a new STEM Ambassadors program. Members of the Medusa’s Robotics Team, along with other student volunteers, are creating monthly STEM education kits to be shared with Catholic elementary schools across north St. Louis County.
Incarnate students met last month during an open study period to work on a Day of the Dead-themed kit, which includes materials for several hands-on activities. Day of the Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos, originated among indigenous cultures as a way to honor deceased ancestors. Today, it is a fusion of Catholic beliefs brought by the Spanish and some of the original indigenous traditions.
Students prepared kits for more than 450 elementary students, with more orders coming in. STEM Ambassadors also made a tutorial video, and some will stay to help teach the lessons when they deliver kits later this month to elementary schools.
The robotics team developed the idea for the STEM kits last school year. Zoe Fletcher, senior and team captain, met with the Federation of Catholic Schools to discuss ways the high school could collaborate with North County Catholic elementary schools on STEM-related projects. Incarnate’s robotics team also received a grant from the Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation to be used toward outreach activities.
In August, STEM Ambassadors created their first kit, which included supplies to make straw rockets as a way to explore
NASA’s Artemis mission. Other upcoming themes include binary coding and mechanical engineering.
Incarnate’s robotics team also is exploring other avenues for outreach. Students recently connected with a newly formed robotics team at a school in Lesotho, South Africa, and plan to provide peer-based mentoring.
“We’re really trying to emphasize more collaboration with other teams,” Zoe said. Incarnate students recently donated robotics equipment to a shared technology library for elementary schools in the North County Federation. Students eventually would like to mentor a grade school team, Zoe added.
“It’s important to provide access to STEM education and knowledge to grade school students who don’t have the equipment to do it,” she said. “Serving your community ties into the example of following Jesus.”
“It’s extra special to give them the opportunity to explore STEM,” said Emalie Niese, a senior and robotics team business lead. “I didn’t have that opportunity in my grade school.”
Incarnate’s STEM coordinator Jennifer Martin noted that the STEM Ambassadors program has been driven entirely by the students. “They are the ones who came to me,” she said. Students have put much effort into gracious professionalism, she said, which is part of the ethos of the FIRST Robotics program.
“This is more than just the robots,” Martin said. “They are so intelligent and passionate, and I am the lucky one who gets to work with them.”
STEM Ambassador lead Meghan Fowlie made a tutorial video demonstrating how to make an origami skull. The sophomore said STEM is a great way to learn while having fun.
“I know myself as a student that sometimes just learning about stuff isn’t fun if it’s just pencil and paper,” she said. “Having lessons that are hands-on can be really fun. And I enjoy doing it because it can help teach kids, and they can have fun learning, too.”
>> Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation
The Josh Seidel Memorial Foundation is named after Josh Seidel, a 1997 graduate of Christian Brothers College High School who died in a work-related accident in 2013. Seidel also was a graduate of Ascension School in Chesterfield.
The foundation works toward assisting and inspiring young people to participate in programs or attend schools that build science, engineering and technical skills, encourage entrepreneurism and foster the connection of people for the greater good of the community.
The foundation has provided grants and scholarships to individuals and schools working toward those goals. For more information, visit www.joshseidel.org.
>> Federation of Catholic Schools
The Federation of Catholic Schools is an agreement between the pastors of the parishes in the North County Deanery of the Archdiocese of St. Louis to work more closely together in support of the mission of Catholic education in north St. Louis County. The Federation schools and parishes collaborate in four main areas:
•Viability, affordability and accessibility of Catholic education
•Maintaining and increasing excellence in Catholic identity, academic programs, extracurricular activities and special programs
•Embracing increased diversity, and
•Achieving greater efficiency and effectiveness by sharing resources
To learn more, visit www.FederationofCatholicSchools.org.