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Teenage Designers of Learning Places for Children - Lower Hudson Valley Challenger Center

Lower Hudson Valley Challenger Center—Ithaca, NY

Project Name: The LP Robotics Project (project overview poster)


To continue the mission of the Challenger Space Center astronauts—to explore, learn and inspire STEM, especially space science.

Project Leader

John Huibregste

Project Summary

LHVCC worked with partners to sponsor and support the development of a collaborative First Lego League (FLL) team focused on the theme of climate change. High school teens were trained to coach junior high students in robotics and science research to satisfy the challenges and exhibit project required as part of the regional competition.

Project Goals

By integrating the LHVCC's experience with LEGO Robotics and the ERCSD’s STEM-related after-school programs to create a FLL team that will research a real-world project focused on the topic of climatology, the project partners aim to:

  • Provide additional STEM-related activities to the ERCSD students, and inspire in them a long-term interest in the STEM disciplines.
  • Provide students from the ERCSD schools with an opportunity to continue their participation in their existing after-school programs and provide the impetus to the ERCSD schools to continue FLL programs into the future.
  • Offer ERCSD students opportunities to improve their team-building, critical-thinking, decision-making, and communication skills.
  • Lay the groundwork for a sustained partnership between the LHVCC and the ERCSD. Increase the Ramapo community's awareness of the STEM programs at the LHVCC and the ERCSD.
  • Extend the LHVCC's reach into the community by provide services to a more diversified community, with the possibility of eventually having teen program participants secure employment at the LHVCC.

Project Description

  • LHVCC and ERCSD partnership to sponsor and support the development of a collaborative FLL team (
  • Leverage partner resources, the interdisciplinary nature of FLL team projects, and the mentoring potential of experienced ERCSD high school students, to develop and showcase a FLL team project involving LEGO NXT Mindstorms robots that are designed to execute a series of technical challenges, and an associated climate-based research project.

Community Collaboration

Community Partners

ERCSD Mission

The mission of the ERCSD is to make the district more child-centered in an environment of excellence for students and staff, marked by high expectations through an open team approach involving teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, and students in a process that will identify the goals and develop strategies to meet them in our schools.

Population Served

East Ramapo is a diverse community that receives fewer resources than the other communities within Rockland County. The ERCSD is rated "3" out of a possible "10". The lowest score of the five school districts that surround it is "8". Most of the students within the ERCSD attend private Jewish yeshivas, so the public schools lack the overall support from the community that is more common within other school districts in the county. Additional resources for the STEM disciplines suffer, and students are underserved when ERCSD school budgets get voted down.

Partner's Role on the Project

  • Designated the ERSCD staff necessary for executing the program.
  • Identified the ERSCD student participants.
  • Helped train the ERSCD teens in the climatology subject matter.
  • Helped the teens learn the skills associated with teaching the middle school students.

History of Partnership

Students from the ERCSD have attended, and continue to attend, space mission "field trips" at the LHVCC. Those missions should continue regardless of this project; however, the district is currently in the process of closing one or two of its elementary schools.

Description of Youth

Middle School participants
  • African-American and Asian-American
  • 8th graders between the ages of 12–13
  • High School participants (85% struggling academically)
  • White-European, African-American, Haitian-American, Indo-European
  • Grades 9–12 between the ages of 15–18
Number of youth recruited

Middle School participants

  • 5: 2 male and 3 female

High School participants

  • 10: 9 male and 1 female
Recruitment process

Middle School participants

  • Selected from a pool of volunteers from the accelerated science program
  • Selected based on enthusiasm and ability to work without negatively impacting their grades
  • Selected by the science teachers

High School participants

  • Selected from a pool of students who were interested in robotics
  • Selected by the technology teachers, science teachers, and the students' advisors
Roles on the project

Middle School participants

  • Form the members of the FLL team
  • Build and program robots, and create Climatology project

High School participants

  • "Coach" the FLL team members on robotics and climatology

Comments by Youth or Families About the Project

"I am so telling my parents about this project—robots are fun" —Middle School Student

Assumptions We Made

Those proven false:

  • Collaborative "buy-in"
  • One Middle School elected not to participate
  • Some students once chosen elected not to participate
  • "Passing the buck" syndrome
  • Lack of communication at times
  • Available Transportation
  • Student transportation issues never resolved

Those proven true:

Robotics is a fun and exciting way to connect STEM and students. Students can visualize themselves as science and technology heroes.

  • Interdisciplinary, requires a large range of skills
  • Students share excitement of STEM with others–community
  • Gracious Professionalism (knowledge, competition, empathy)

Insights We Gained

  • Robotics can inspire self-confidence, communication, and leadership
  • Robotics can help students develop important life skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Collaboration
  • Robotics can help students make positive contributions to society

Learn more about St. Louis Science Center's YES program, and the Science Museum of Minnesota's Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center