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STEM Program Providing Local Students with Building Blocks for Success

SheriLynn Koscielski’s daughter describes her as a “professional volunteer.”

“I love volunteering and working with the community,” SheriLynn explains. “I love teaching kids and being able to give back where I can.”

SheriLynn currently volunteers with FIRST Robotics Canada, serving as a Senior Mentor with Windsor-Essex FIRST Robotics—which is hosting a FIRST Lego League (FLL) event later this month.

“The FIRST Lego League is a chance for kids to learn how to build a robot,” SheriLynn states. “It’s a great opportunity to learn about coding and programming. The kids also get a chance to learn about Core Values, which we use to make sure everyone is working as a team.”

And the skills that Windsor-Essex FIRST Robotics cultivates is far more than just technical.

As a STEM.org certified teacher, FIRST mentor, and Makerspace lead at M.S. Hetherington Public School, Chuck Stoffle sees the impact “FIRST” hand.

“They’re learning a variety of skills while working on these projects,” Chuck stresses. “They’re learning how to research. They’re learning how to give presentations. They’re learning how to take in data put it in a usable format. And above all, they’re learning about perseverance. This isn’t something they’re being marked or assessed on. This is a volunteer project. Seeing such young kids put such enormous time and energy into something is so inspiring.”

Local teams prepare for competition in this year’s FIRST Lego League challenge, CARGO CONNECT. | Photos via Windsor-Essex FIRST

But more than that, what’s truly inspiring is the sense of camaraderie the kids get to experience.

“We always support each other’s accomplishments,” SheriLynn explains. “We always take the opportunity to help each other, even when competing. A couple years ago, one of the kid’s robot’s batteries wasn’t charging. Another team happened to have an extra one, so they gave it to him. It’s part of what we teach the kids: Gracious Professionalism. It’s really, really great to see these kids excited to work together. If someone needs something, they always rush to help. They always cheer each other on.”

And now, as we all collectively crawl towards our second anniversary in a global pandemic, these events may be more important than ever before.

“The program is still running despite COVID, and the challenges it has brought,” Yvonne Pilon, President and CEO of WETechAlliance, states. “I look forward to the time when we can once again safely return to the excitement of live, in-person events, and continue building on the momentum that made this region one of the fastest-growing FIRST Robotics communities in Canada.”

The necessity of not only rebuilding Windsor-Essex’s FIRST Robotics’ momentum, but maintaining it, cannot be overstated.

“There’s so much research that shows how children who go through FIRST Robotics programming are more likely to get into STEM later in life,” Yvonne explains. “The buy-in is easy. The sell is easy. It’s such an awesome program. You get so many skills through it. And it’s a beautiful feather in Windsor’s cap as we look to nourish the next generation of tech talent.”

Teams compete in the FIRST LEGO League Windsor-Essex Remote Qualifying Event in December. | Image via FIRST Robotics Canada

The FIRST Lego League Provincial Championships are taking place later this month on Monday, January 31st. Chuck’s FIRST team, RoboHawks, will be competing.

“I’ve seen a lot of projects over the years,” Chuck states. “But holy cow! I have a lot of confidence in the Provincials this year.”

“It’s a really, really neat experience,” SheriLynn explains. “You can explain it and watch all the videos you can find, but to be in the room and just feel that energy? You just need to be there. You’ll never forget it.”

Those interested joining SheriLynn as a volunteer or coach can go to www.windsoressexfirst.org or email her directly at [email protected].

Original Article on WETechAlliance

WETechAlliance is one of seventeen Regional Innovation Centres, funded by the Province of Ontario, serving the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent regions. We provide entrepreneurs with business services, training, perks, mentorship and strategic connections to help bring new ideas to market, scale to the next level and build a dynamic culture and a community of innovation. WETechAlliance has served as the catalyst for technology and innovation in the Windsor-Essex + Chatham-Kent regions since 2011.

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