Monsanto Fund Jumpstarts Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri Robotics Program with Grant

Exploring machines and strengthening abilities in math, science and engineering will be just a few of the things available to Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund to participate in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®) Robotics program.

FIRST® Robotics is designed to serve a diverse group of girls throughout eastern Missouri while helping carry out Girl Scouts’ mission—to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. Females are grossly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women make up only 25 percent of our STEM workforce. To combat this trend, Girl Scouts remains committed to offering specialized programs—such as FIRST® Robotics.

“FIRST® Robotics is a great way to introduce our girls to these sciences and encourage their exploration in a fun, interactive way,” said Bonnie Barczykowski, CEO, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri. “Grants like this from the Monsanto Fund help us empower the next generation of young female scientists and innovators.”

The grant will be used to support the FIRST® Robotics program to girls throughout the City of St. Louis and 28 surrounding Missouri counties – Adair, Audrain, Clark, Crawford, Franklin, Iron, Jefferson, Knox, Lewis, Lincoln, Linn, Macon, Marion, Monroe, Pike, Putnam, Ralls, Reynolds, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, St. Charles, St. Francois, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, Sullivan, Warren and Washington. The mentor-based program is designed to cultivate girls’ interest in STEM fields and help girls discover valuable life and employment skills by learning how to become leaders, creating ideas, solving problems and overcoming obstacles. They will also gain confidence in their abilities to positively use technology. In the 2013-2014 season, Girl Scouts will organize 30 FIRST® Robotics teams, serving 160 girls between the ages of 5 and 18. The FIRST® Robotics program offers age-appropriate STEM activities for three tiers of teams:

- Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL): Focused on girls ages 5-9, Jr.FLL is a hands-on program designed to capture young girls’ inherent curiosity and direct it toward discovering the possibilities of improving the world around them. The program features a real-world challenge, to be solved by research, teamwork and imagination. Guided by adult coaches, girls also work with LEGO® bricks to build a model that moves. Additionally, they create a poster to illustrate their process.

- FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL): FLL immerses girls, ages 9-14, in real-word science and technology challenges. Each participating team proposes an innovative solution to a current scientific question or problem. In tandem with their scientific research, girls are also introduced to the field of engineering as they build an autonomous LEGO®-based robot that performs a series of tasks in local robotics competitions.

- FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC): FTC serves girls ages 14-18 with a greater emphasis on engineering. Under the guidance of a coach, each team is required to design, build and program a robot using sound engineering principles to accomplish the assigned set of robotic tasks. Teams then compete with their robots in local tournaments.

The overarching goal for each age group is the same: to inspire girls to become leaders in STEM fields. Through participation, girls develop valuable life skills, i.e. learn to become leaders, problem-solving and team-building, explore exciting career possibilities and learn to make a positive contribution to society.

In 2012-2013, Girl Scouts worked with 26 Girl Scouts teams in the FIRST® Robotics program. Teams, led by adult volunteer and mentors, worked together to design and build a robot and program it to do various tasks. At the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL) levels, they also researched a topic based on the year’s challenge and gave a presentation about their research and innovative solutions. Of the 26 teams that participated, 58 percent earned awards at the qualifying and regional tournaments, with seven FLL teams advancing to the Eastern Missouri Championships.

Girl Scouts of the United States (GSUSA) has partnered with FIRST® to offer Council program opportunities in these areas. The mission of the FIRST® program is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills. The experience also inspires innovation and fosters well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership.