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FIRST in Texas is Committed to STEM Teacher Enrichment & Professional Development

In Texas we go big in just about everything we do, and that includes STEM education. According to Texas Education Agency, Texas had 1,775 STEM teachers in 2017-2018, and that number is likely rising as we head into the 2019-2020 school year. With so many teachers in the Lone Star State, the need to train our educators in robotic integration is urgent.

Are you a STEM educator or a school district who wants to bring 21st century caliber training and technology to your STEM classroom environments?

If that’s you, then we’ve got great news. The FIRST in Texas Professional Development offering can make that happen for you.

Through our many years of working with STEM educators, we know how difficult it can be to make STEM accessible to every family in a school district so that the parents and the child feel confident they can find a niche that fits.

That’s exactly why we created this: to help educators inspire kids to see where they can fit in in the world of STEM and see how they can make a difference. In our experience we’ve found that participating on a robotics team is ultimately a community outreach project. One that inspires students to see how these things are possible and exciting, whether it’s understand how a robot works, learning electrical engineering, or getting comfortable with design.

With STEM, another challenge is connecting kids not just to STEM education–not just to the information, in other words–but connecting them to real world hands-on experiences that are relevant, challenging, and fun all at the same time.

This is what the FIRST in Texas Professional Development offering is all about.

Of course, we couldn’t make this happen without some talented people heading it up. On that note, we’re excited to introduce someone special on the FIRST in Texas team.

Introducing our Education and Outreach Director

Jane TaylorOur Director of Education and Outreach Director, Jane Taylor, is excited to bring the first teacher enrichment and professional development workshops to the FIRST in Texas community beginning in July and August. (And these will be followed by a second round of workshops in September and October.)

Jane has definitely got the right stuff–and plenty of years of in-depth experience with FIRST®–to make these workshops a smashing success. She discovered her passion for FIRST® in 2001 when she coached her first team in the FIRST® LEGO® League’s MISSION TO MARSsm. After graduating from Lamar University in 2000 (Bachelor of Science), she taught middle school science in Houston Independent School District (HISD). She earned her Master’s in Education, and since 2004, she has been working hard to build the professional robotics learning communities in Texas.

In addition to all of that, for the last seven years she has been a Master Trainer for LEGO® Education Academy. In that role, she traveled to more than 33 states to help teachers learn to use robots in classrooms and competitions. For 17 years, she has also served as a coach, mentor, host, and cheerleader for FIRST® programs and events in the Houston area.

What Will Participants Learn in the New FIRST in Texas Workshops?

The FIRST in Texas professional development program equips educators through a customized learning experience. One thing you should take note of: no computer or technology experience is required. FIRST in Texas customizes its online training to meet participants where they are in their skills. It doesn’t matter how much prior coding, programming, or robotics experience they have.

Our Robot P.A.L. (Professional Alliance of Leaders) Academies for LEGO® MINDSTORMS®. This program is a four-part series, and it introduces educators to basic building blocks of robotics such as:

  • Construction
  • Coding
  • Collaboration
  • Competition

FIRST-in-Texas-Professional-Development-Workshop-in-Whichita-Falls-Texas-June-2019In the FIRST in Texas Professional Development Series, we give participants a practical learning experiences that is hands-on. Educators develop the skills needed to integrate coding and robotics. They learn to apply these skills to formal and informal classrooms.

There is also the FIRST in Texas Education and Outreach Teaching and Learning Workshop. With these programs, the goal is to support and sustain the robotics programs across the entire spectrum of education in Texas, including programs offered during school and out of school. The content is focused to help programs align to the following standards, as noted by FIRST:

  • State standards
  • Content specific curriculum
  • Innovative professional learning communities Collaborative research
  • Evaluation efforts.

The long-term hope is to transform STEM classrooms in Texas into powerful 21st century learning environments. We want to make it as cutting edge and relevant to today’s technological world as possible. This takes proactive efforts to bring all educators to the same level of effectiveness in STEM and robotics integration. The goal is to also connect educators to each other and to connect industries.

Ultimately, these professional development programs provide innovative resources. They give educators the clearest vision of how robots can be used in the classroom and in programs outside of the classroom. Educators get a tangible sense for how robotic integration becomes a vehicle to strengthen passion for science, math, and computer science career paths.

The training programs include:

  • FIRST LEGO League Jr. robotics program (grades K-4)
  • FIRST LEGO League robotics program* (grades 4-8)
  • FIRST Tech Challenge robotics program* (grades 7-12)

For educators in grades 4th-8th, we have the following courses:

Course 1: FIRST LEGO LEAGUE Basics for the Classroom Educator (Intro)
Course 2: Mindstorms Math- Teaching the Math TEKS with Robots (Intro)
Course 3: Forces, Motion &Robots- Teaching the Science TEKS with Robots (Intermediate)
Course 4: Authentic Assessment with FIRST LEGO LEAGUE School Events (Intermediate)

For grades 7-12, the following STEM professional development is recommended:

Skill 1: Structural, motion and hardware elements including wheels, gears, channels, flats & connectors
Skill 2: Basic competency in RobotC or Java coding for robotics
Skill 3: Math Fundamentals and Basic Movements with Motors
Skill 4: Basic Sensors – Sonar, Touch, and Light
Skill 5: Remote Control Skill 6: Competition Templates – Templates and Testing

(You should also note: you have the freedom to purchase each of the above referenced training kits separately.)

How Corporate Sponsors Are Changing the STEM Playing Field

Studies have shown that preparing the next generation of STEM professionals begins in the classroom. With that in mind, the goal of these programs is for STEM educators to have a foundation of knowledge which they can put into action during the school year.   To that end, here are the foresighted businesses in Texas communities who are sponsoring these programs now.

For example, Applied Materials in Austin, Oncor in Dallas, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. (TMMTX) in San Antonio, have already committed dollars to the July/August and Sept/Oct trainings.

The companies partner with us to ensure that STEM educators in their communities are ready to give students superb opportunities to gain STEM knowledge. This, in turn, ensures the community has an ample STEM workforce ready to keep the Texas economy healthy and growing.

Companies in Texas are really stepping up to support STEM initiatives in the classroom, but it’s not just the business community. School districts are stepping up too. Dallas ISD is bringing FIRST in Texas to help with STEM educator training in the fall. We expect to see an increasing number of school districts investing in their STEM teacher’s training through programs like the FIRST in Texas Teacher Enrichment programs.

Workshops Full Steam Ahead

As mentioned above, STEM-focused corporate sponsors such as Applied Materials, Oncor, and Toyota are sponsoring the first workshops in July and August. (Note: These workshops are already full, so you will need to call first to ask about registration.) More workshops will take place in September and October.

Make sure to reach out to us to learn more about these exciting education opportunities for your teachers and school districts. To request information about getting a professional development workshop in your school district, go to the Professional Development Info Request form.

FIRST in Texas is excited and proud to bring these opportunities to you. They will make a real difference in the STEM landscape across Texas as teachers learn the true potential of robotics in the classroom and in educational programs such as FIRST in Texas.

Don’t miss out on these fantastic new opportunities for school districts. Contact us today for more information!

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