A gathering fueled by passion and determination, the Warwick FTC Fund recently hosted a focus group meeting at their newly acquired incubator space at Mountain Lake Park on Bowen Road in Warwick,
The meeting aimed to chart the course for their mission to expand coding, robotics and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in Orange County and beyond.
The meeting was facilitated by Paul Woods of the non-profit Warwick FTC, and Christine Leo of STEMbridge Consulting. Warwick FTC, a 501c organization that sponsors FTC Team TACA (Total and Complete Amateurs), was started by Paul Woods and three middle school students as a community team in 2016.
‘How do we nurture a community of young minds?’
The purpose of the focus group was multi-faceted, with the primary goal being to prioritize the next steps in their mission by using feedback from community stakeholders.
One of the central questions guiding the discussion was: “How do we nurture a community of young minds passionate about robotics, STEM and AI?”
As part of this discussion, they brainstormed challenges that might arise as they scale their efforts and explored ways to generate support and excitement around their mission.
Creating opportunities for young people and adults
One key theme to emerged was the need to provide access to STEM education to as many young people as possible. While there is a lot of interest in robotics and coding, not all teachers have the access or comfort level to teach these subjects effectively.
Therefore, the group emphasized the importance of creating training opportunities for adults.They highlighted the need for a supportive environment where multi-generational experiences are shared, hands-on learning is encouraged and practical solutions to real-world problems are developed.
Project-based learning and practical solutions were also key elements of their strategy. The group discussed the possibility of holding events at Mountain Lake Park, such as analyzing traffic data or exploring bear activity in Warwick, to engage children and make them invested in their community.
Furthermore, the role of robotics in enhancing mathematical understanding was highlighted, and the focus group explored different programs such as FLL (First Lego League), FTC (First Tech Challenge), and FRC (First Robotics Competition) that cater to students from elementary school to high school and compliment Workshops offered by the team. These programs offer hands-on problem-solving experiences and open up opportunities to develop workshops in the community.
Skills that local businesses need
Additionally, the connection between these skills and the needs of local businesses today and into the future was raised. To extend technology skills development to Orange County citizens of all ages, the group identified the need for a Makerspace and the involvement of volunteers. Starting children on their STEM journey as early as 5-6 years old was considered crucial to building a strong foundation. The discussion also acknowledged the importance of parent support and building a strong community around robotics. Setting the evening times for robotics activities to encourage parental involvement and ensuring the success of the first project a participant engages with were identified as key factors in sustaining interest among young participants. The focus group concluded by discussing how to prioritize their initiatives.
The group contemplated piloting programs in afterschool settings, consulting with school districts, and providing training and professional development, as well as fundraising and marketing efforts.
With a clear roadmap and a passionate team, Team TACA and their focus group attendees are determined to pave the way for a tech-centric future in Orange County. As they move forward, they aim to inspire and empower young minds while ensuring that technology skill development is accessible to all. Stay tuned for updates on their journey as they work toward this exciting vision.
The Community Robotic team in Warwick
If you are interested in helping with this initiative, please contact Paul Woods at email@example.com.