Imagine an active nurturing mom. She sets the emotional and physical tone of the household. Her daughters feel safe around her and derive comfort from her focused attention to their needs. Her husband does, too. She keeps them engaged and entertained. When they dance, she becomes their choreographer. When they are on a field trip, she becomes their chaperone and drives them around in a minivan loaded with snacks.
When they join the LEGO robotics team, she becomes an active team parent.
LEGO Robotics. This new found hobby becomes a passion for all of them. She shifts her gears to a rookie coach
for a rookie team.
She gathered her daughters and her friends' kids in her living room and taught them science facts through LEGO Robotics. She took it up, not just to feed her tech passion, but also to conduct Robotics Class in a very structured way, so that it reaches out to more students. All that they had was one robotics kit, 5 enthusiastic students gleaming with excitement and 10 super supportive parents. Given her Computer Science background and seasoned teaching skills, these 5 keen minds working in her living room become a State Championship bid winning LEGO Robotics team, putting Jacksonville on the map. 5 becomes 10, 10 becomes 50 and they outgrow the size of her living room within a year!
Today she teaches students in her 3400 sq. ft academy and in 30 different public schools, with her strong team of staff and volunteers.
Yes, I am that LEGO Robotics Instructor.
Wonder how I created more and more LEGO Robotics Coaches in town ?
I give Free training to more moms like me to become robotics coaches. Today, this army of robot moms teaches in almost 30 Duval county schools. These robot moms are the strong female STEM ambassadors to bring more girls and boys alike into STEM.
Not just moms, we have grandma's and grand dads becoming Robotics Coaches too.
One such Grand Dad Mr.Ken Utting, volunteered his time to help his grandson Cannon’s FLL robotics team - Shiva Atomatrons. Through Coach Ken’s guidance and connection he developed with the team, helped the team win. Last year, Atomatrons won the highest score in qualifiers, Robot Design Award and earned their bid to the State Championship in Delray Beach. And they did it again.
And were selected as one of the very few teams representing the US in the Japan Open Invitational Robotics Tournament. Unfortunately it was cancelled, due to COVID19. Although, what might have been once in a lifetime experience, for all the kids going to Japan, we celebrated our achievement at a Zoom meeting.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of their year’s team has been their decision to use a programming language called Python. Python is a general purpose, text based, language used by many thousands of professional programmers. It is much harder to use, but provides a much more realistic programming environment for the kids. Today, the Shiva Atomatrons team with grade 5 to 8 students are using Python for extensive programming.
We all know, Robotics is a fast track to success. What most of us don’t know is that there are 80 million dollar college scholarships available for students who take part in Robotics competitions.
Thus Robotics is a rope to pull a generation up and out of poverty.
Robotics has the power to turn one’s life 180 degrees for good!
When I met Andrew Richardson he was 16 year old, who was repeating eighth grade for the third time, which was such a demeaning experience. He was a young man with no-confidence. He started acting out, in a way that was harmful. The decision was made for him to get therapy. While he was in therapy one of the staff members at Behavioral Therapy Center, who has seen the powerful impact of robotics in her own grandson’s life, recommended Andrew to the LEGO Robotics program. They were willing to offer sponsorship to Andrew to see if he liked it.
During that month I saw potential in him and his natural ability in engineering. I decided to give him a chance and something he didn't know he wanted, a part-time job, and the responsibility that comes with the job. Thanks to the sense of purpose that robotics instilled in him, he was able to leave therapy a short time later almost a complete 180 from when he first started. That year I nudged him to join the FIRST TECH Challenge team, where students build metal robots. Parents and coaches took turns in arranging his rides. It was his first year so there was a lot to learn but he made it through the year. We even completed the hardest mission, the robot lifting itself off the ground and even got the judges award. Today I am very excited to celebrate the fact that he got accepted by Americorp Vista.
We can be the robotics coach guiding students to find their path!
Extrapolating the success of team SHIVA Atomatrons and Andrew Richardson, we want robotics to reach not just more students but ALL students. So we applied for grants and funding to provide robotics training to students in Title 1 schools. Last summer, almost 90 students from Title 1 school attended 1 week of robotics camp, free of cost for them, funded by the city of Jacksonville, in partnership with Communities in Schools of Jacksonville. It was a life changing experience for most students.
Our students are coming back as coaches to pay it forward. Team SHIVA Atomatrons and Andrew Richardson were my camp counselors sharing their joy of LEGO robotics education to 90 more students.
We are STEM role models!
All that it needs is 1 caring and responsible adult with perseverance to change a child’s life. With technology being the inevitable need of the hour, adults taking up the role as a robotics coach can put the child's path to success on a fast track. Just like how being an active dance mom or a soccer dad doesn't need you to know, all the skills, being a robotics coach is easy too.
When you believe in a child and encourage them, they can change the world.
To quote inventor Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, ‘We are not using kids to build robots, but we are using robots to build kids’.
Robot building teaches perseverance, team work, problem solving, creative thinking, communication and collaboration
It is not just about building robots, it is about building people who will change the world!
I invite you all to be the driving force behind this movement of building an army of Robot builders.
This blog was written by Kalai from Shiva Robotics Academy. If you are interested in blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule!
I first stumbled across competitive programming from a YouTube Video. A coding problem flashed onto the screen and before I could even read the prompt, the guy had already started coding the solution. The only audio was the fast clicking of his keyboard. I had never seen someone type so fast.
Competitive programming is a sport of the mind in which you compete with others to code solutions to sets of problems as quickly as possible. The problems often involve math, logic, data structures, and algorithms. The programs are judged on a variety of factors including how quickly the program can run and how much memory it takes up.
Intrigued, I decided to give it a try on HackerRank, a website which has hundreds of coding puzzles and also hosts competitive programming competitions. In my AP Computer Science class, we get assigned lots of coding puzzles and I always found myself doing extra problems just for fun during my free time. I was hooked on the satisfaction of solving puzzle after puzzle, but I had never thought about doing it with speed in mind. Needless to say, I was quite horrible when I was first starting out. My typing was sloppy and I made countless careless errors from trying to think too fast. Even though I was the slowest one by far, I was still having a lot of fun just solving the puzzles without thinking about time.
Another aspect of competitive programming that took some getting used to was making my code as efficient as possible. With my previous coding projects, I’ve always assumed that if the code runs it’s fine without any thought about how long the code took to compile or how much memory was being taken up. I remember being surprised when my code gave the right results but was marked wrong because it took too long to compile. Through this, I’ve become more conscious about making my code as concise and efficient as possible.
Besides being fun, it’s also great practice for improving your coding skills and helping you prep for potential coding interviews. While doing some practice free response questions for my AP Computer Science exam, I came across a problem very similar to one I had done on HackerRank. The more problems you get exposed to, the better your problem solving will become. While I started out on HackerRank, there are many different websites you can use to start out. For those interested, here is the link: https://www.hackerrank.com/. There are also lots of competitions held by big companies such as Facebook and Google. To those looking for a coding hobby outside of robotics, I highly recommend giving competitive programming a try.
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