Great article from http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2016-07-05/story/duval-schools-look-legos-expand-interest-science-spark-imagination But please, "Playing with LEGOs?" C'mon! Those kids will be LEARNING!!! Way to go, Superintendent Vitti!
Duval Schools look to Legos to expand interest in science, spark imagination
50 schools to be involved
Along the way they’ll learn about math, computer coding, engineering, problem-solving and teamwork, organizers said.
It’s part of a proposal Duval’s School Board is expected to vote on this month.
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has proposed spending $187,700 to set up Lego robotics teams in 50 schools, an increase from the 36 schools currently operating such clubs.
The long-term vision, said Mason Davis, assistant superintendent, is to have robotics teams in all 161 Duval public schools. He said the mostly extra curricular activity will spark students’ engagement in technology fields and hopefully get them more involved in math, science and computers in class.
Vitti said Duval’s investment will be unprecedented among large, urban school districts.
“We are setting a trend as a large urban school district to have this many schools participating in FIRST Lego League,” Vitti said.
That claim could not be verified by FIRST Lego officials Friday.
Vitti wants the school district to work with Renaissance Jax, a nonprofit Lego League affiliate partner for FIRST, the national nonprofit entity which organizes thousands of robotics and technology competitions around the country, involving teams from kindergarten through 12th grade.
FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”
“This is going to be the first proposal where a school district contracts for the growth and management of their FIRST robotics teams to a FIRST affiliate partner,” said Mark McCombs, head of Renaissance Jax, which already runs dozens of FIRST Lego teams and events in 20 Florida counties.
The contract would involve training teachers and volunteers to run the teams and coordinating practices and qualifying competitions.
In 2011, Renaissance Jax had 14 teams and no tournament. It had 220 teams last year totaling 1,100 students who competed in tournaments at the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University.
Legos are plastic bricks of various colors and size that can be combined to build things.
Lego also makes parts and kits that robotics teams use to build programmable robots for team competitions, including the FIRST Lego League tourneys.
Lego touts the robotics teams and competitions as having important educational benefits.
Team surveys show that 86 percent of participants say they are more interested in doing well at school, 84 percent are motivated to take challenging math and science courses, and 80 percent are more interested in STEM-related jobs.
The gender gap in science and technology isn’t evident at the tournaments, McCombs said. About half the competitors last year were boys and half were girls.
“They are learning about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math education) and finding out that they are way more capable than the adults around them have told them they are,” McCombs said....
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