One sponsor shares how, since 2005, NCCC has helped children learn about math and science. Her story explains the process of having an NCCC team from concept to completion, with a lot of hard satisfying work in-between.
It’s also about robots and getting things done.
Since 2005 I’ve been working with NCCC team members out of the Atlantic Region. I’ve worked with over 250 members over the years. I’ve heard some inspiring speeches at Induction and gotten teary at the Graduations. I have taken many photos of teams-lots of Buffalos, Ravens, and Moose, and even a River from the Southern Region where we had our orientation on a beach at Disney World. I’m getting older in these photos, but the teams seem to stay the same – usually smiling, often wearing khakis already filled with paint stains, in the joking-around poses. On my desk I have a handmade card from a team that says “You are a rock star” thanking me for sponsoring them. I smile every time I look at it because how many opportunities are there to ask people to work long days doing hard work and then they write you thank you notes?
So this story is personal as well as about getting things done.
|Beatty has worked with many NCCC teams since 2005. |
Here she is with the Southern Reigon's River 1 at orientation at Disney World 2011.
So this story is personal as well as about getting things done.
Yesterday we said goodbye to Moose 5. They are headed to Vermont to a remote area a few miles from the Canadian border after spending the past 3 weeks living and working in hot and noisy inner city Baltimore. Talk about transitions! This is the story of how they eventually got here this summer.
|Beatty received this thank you card from River 1 of the Southern Region |
which she found ironic since she was the one that wanted to thank them.
I first learned about NCCC eight years ago. In 2004 I was hired under a “New Generation Grant” sponsored by AmeriCorps for a non-profit called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). FIRST seeks to inspire kids to enter the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields and has a menu of programs which all involve building robots. I became a volunteer for FIRST a decade ago while my son was on a high school team, and then was hired by the organization.
Unlike many of the thousands of volunteers drawn to FIRST - I’m not really interested in robots. But I am interested in students having opportunities to work in teams, and to experience problem-solving – the skills needed to succeed in life no matter what content area.
There were 15 of us hired (we were given the title of Senior Mentor), and we were spread across the US. Our marching orders were to go out and help start new teams, and recruit and support mentors and event volunteers. There were various competitions that needed to happen in Maryland, and I got introduced to the area of “volunteer-driven event management.” I had always been interested in volunteer-driven organizations and public service, had worked for various non-profits and educational institutions, and had been in the National Health Service Corps, which shares many of the AmeriCorps values.
During the Senior Mentor training we were encouraged to forge relationships with the local AmeriCorps programs and volunteer centers. I knew about VISTA, but not the other programs. So I did some research and discovered there was something called “AmeriCorps-NCCC” and the office for the Atlantic Region was right here in Maryland. I made some inquiries within FIRST and discovered that a staff member in California had a written proposal to engage NCCC members for FIRST robotics competitions in the western region a couple of years before. So I figured it was worth the time to submit a project concept form to bring a team on board for a few days to help with an event we were holding in Maryland. The concept form, and then the full proposal were accepted and that partnership still exists to this day.
I retired as a FIRST Senior Mentor in 2009, but still do lots of volunteering for the FIRST programs-helping with events and local planning. About 4 years ago I also started volunteering for a program called the VEX Robotics Competition. Like FIRST, VEX also has students building robots and going to competitions and a great community of volunteers helping to put on both small and large events.
So for the past 8 years I have found myself writing NCCC-targeted flyers for ISP’s and proposals for mini-spikes, helping various groups with robot competitions around Maryland. NCCC has helped out at almost 20 events.
The teams over the years have provided a ton of support with set up and tear down, and playing many key roles at these robotics competitions.
|Corps Members from the Atlantic Region Class 17 |
help set up one of the competition areas for the children and their robots.
In 2012 Baltimore City Public Schools received a 3-year federal grant (i3 ) to run a 5-week summer school program for middle school students based on lessons learned with a program administered the two previous summers. The goal is to decrease summer learning loss, targeting students who scored basic on the Mathematics MSA (tests). The plan for summer 2012 included 10 sites involving 400 middle school age students, math instruction and forming lots and lots of robotics teams. And the hook to get the students to come to school was building robots. One of the key elements of the program is to provide exciting competitions for the students.
In March I was hired by Baltimore City Public Schools as a short term contractor, working with the summer school team as the “Robotics Events Director.” My job was to work with the coordinators for the program, pulling together the pieces needed to run the events – finding venues, recruiting and training volunteers and doing what is referred in the business as the “run of show” (or, the game plan for the day) for what turned out to be one of the larger robotics competitions in the US. Only this competition would feature middle school students who had never been exposed to robotics, and unlike most robotic competitions, these students had only 4 weeks and a couple of hours a day to build a robot to compete.
The first hour of the first day on the job was spent figuring out how to get NCCC involved in this complicated effort. I knew it would be different than most of the NCCC projects, but that it did fit in the target area of urban development and it involved a targeted geographic area – Baltimore City. The job plan would contain many logistical challenges -but I figured it was worth a try.
There were different components to the project – the events, the summer school and the enormous task that came to be known as “kitting” which involved breaking down the components of the robot kits as they are delivered into new storage containers that could be used by the summer school robot building program. I saw a role for NCCC in all these areas so submitted a project concept. This was accepted, but then it got more complicated because I found out the campus had vacation and mandatory training time right smack in the middle of the project AND the project was split over Round 2 & Round 3. So the project was split into 2 parts. The Program Officers in Perry Point were very helpful in walking me through the scenarios that could work with the timing, while I was juggling what needed to happen when and trying to craft a good proposal.
The proposal was accepted. The Baltimore City Summer School Program Coordinators had never worked with NCCC before so there was a lot of sharing of information that needed to happen to put the plan together. The City Schools Program Coordinators also took on the challenge of figuring out housing and how to best use 8 people; working in pairs, but spread over 10 sites around the city and these sites had varying schedules and would require NCCC moving around by public bus.
|Kits ready to go to sites|
I saw clear roles for a NCCC team with events: set up and tear down and moving the competition equipment in an efficient system; playing a major role with the organization and management of one of the key event roles called “Team Queuing” including supervising other volunteers; as all-around problem solvers; and assisting with volunteer recruitment. And then there was the organization and classification of over half-million pieces of robotics equipment and helping with robot building in the classroom. Unfortunately, the professional development (the week to learn about building robots) was during the NCCC break, but Moose 5 was able to learn as they went. Their training in working together as a team was crucial to the effort.
|Student on the practice field with some young fans|
This summer was a learning opportunity for all. The feedback from Moose 5 will be valuable in figuring out how to use groups of volunteers in the future – hopefully including future NCCC teams. I know they were invaluable at the events – 2 days of set up, 2 days of scrimmages, and 1 day of the Championship Olympiad. Moose 5 worked hard: they brainstormed with students, serving as great role models; did a whole lot of heavy lifting, became proficient at assembling the fields; managed key event positions; unpacked, sorted and labeled tens of thousands of robot parts; and played a crucial role in getting things done. They’ve learned a new vocabulary and made a big difference to the summer school program.
I hope Moose 5 had some fun. There were members who tasted Maryland crab for the first time, we watched the Olympic opening ceremonies (taped), they got to explore many parts of Baltimore, and we even went bowling. I look forward to seeing them at graduation in November!
|Moose 5 Corps Members, Alice left and Chris right, assist with the robotics|