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Hollister, Foothill Schools Building Lego Robotics Programs with Local Support

Raytheon grant provides critical funding for the expanding after-school programs

Hollister and Foothill elementary schools in the Goleta Union School District recently learned that their grants for Lego Robotics Program support from Raytheon were approved.

The after-school Lego Robotics Programs are run on a cost-recovery basis, but the materials required to establish the programs can be prohibitive. A major goal of these programs is to keep the rates affordable for all children and to provide scholarships for all students in need, so the grant support is critical.

Hollister School and its PTA benefited from a private donor and were the first to establish an after-school Lego Robotics Program in the Goleta district. The goal of the program was to encourage math, science and advanced problem solving in students at Hollister.

Not surprisingly, enthusiasm has been remarkably high, and additional materials were needed to expand the program. The support from Raytheon will help Hollister continue to build this effective and engaging program. Hollister School Principal Ryan Sparre is excited to put the funds to good use.

The Hollister program has served as an inspiration for other local elementary schools, including Foothill, La Patera, El Camino and Mountain View.

As these schools develop their programs, Hollister has continued its innovation by joining the First LEGO League and forming an advanced competition team named the Cool Inventors Association (C.I.A). This team also designed their competition shirts, which were sponsored by a local technology startup Aurrion Inc.

The student group, coached by Hollister teacher Eric Prothero, has enjoyed tournament play and learned important problem-solving tools.

Early on, the students presented their robots to the school in an outdoor school assembly. These robots designed and tested in the computer lab initially failed to perform at the assembly. What could be wrong? Hmm, these things have light detectors, right? Is it brighter out here than inside? The light might be beyond the program’s parameters. Hmm, some sunglasses for the detector or reprogram the robot? They didn’t just demonstrate their robots, but problem solving on the fly — what a great example.

As part of the program experience, Sparre would like to see a local Lego Robotics Tournament to provide more students the tournament experience without expensive travel. Schools that have established teams would benefit from the challenge. Educators and parents interested in establishing their own programs might benefit by seeing how the students manage the competition experience. With local support, a local tournament just may be possible.

— Mary Raven is vice president of events for the Hollister PTA.

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