Our dependence on technology has accelerated the need for skilled coders, yet there aren’t enough graduates to fill these positions.
A shortage of talent
According to a 2013 article on Forbes, at the college level, only 2 percent of students are graduating with computer science degrees.
Estimates show that while 1.4 million programming jobs will be created over the next decade, only 400,000 graduates will be available to fill them.
Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of schools offer computer-programming classes.
To help tackle this problem, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has partnered with the LEGO Group to create an international robotics program that introduces kids ages 9 to 14 to the excitement of STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
FIRST LEGO League
The program is called FIRST LEGO League (FLL).
Kids are placed into teams of 10 and work together to solve challenges with a central theme taken from real-world topics, like transportation, climate or biomedical engineering.
This year’s challenge is called TRASH TREK. Children in the program are required to learn all they can about the world of trash.
Teams must identify a trash problem that needs solving, research it, and find an innovative way to solve it.
An international competition
The best teams advance to regional championships and eventually the world championship in St. Louis, Missouri.
Teams earn points based on how they respond to the three parts of the challenge: the project, the robot game, and how well they demonstrate FLL core values, like teamwork and gracious professionalism.
The robot game is by far the most popular event. In this portion of the challenge, kids learn to build and program an autonomous robot made from Lego parts.
Teams earn points by using their robot to complete a series of missions on a playing field. These missions can include picking up items or navigating the course.
Not only is it a lot of fun, but kids also learn valuable skills that prepare them for STEM careers later in life.
XANT joins the fun
That’s why XANT is participating in the Lego league.
A few of our employees volunteer as team coaches and mentors, using their expertise to help kids learn the basics of code and help them with their challenges.
One of our coaches, Chad Snelson, took a particular interest in this program because of his kids.
“I wanted to be a part of [the league] so I could help my daughters,” Chad said. “Not to mention, I like playing with Legos too.”
Chat meets with his team every Thursday, and is already seeing great progress.
“Our team is really enjoying it. We have already assembled all of the parts for the course and are now starting to build and program the robots,” he said.
XANT offers up its office space so teams can meet after work hours and build their robots and work on their projects together.
Two XANT teams, “Straight Outta Compost” and “The Purple Gorilla Puppycats,” have even designed their own t-shirts for their events.
XANT is sponsoring four teams with a total of 36 kids who are preparing for their qualifying competition in January 2016.