UT-Battelle has announced a $50,000 gift to fund the FIRST Robotics and FIRST Lego science competitions for Oak Ridge schools.
The announcement came as part of the capital campaign sponsored by the Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation to make a “critical difference” by providing additional resources to Oak Ridge teachers and students.
Two of the region’s most popular and fastest growing activities, FIRST Robotics and FIRST LEGO are team competitions that combine the excitement of sports with real-world challenges of science and technology.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason said the decision to support the two science competitions “is a perfect fit between UT-Battelle’s support for science education and what are rapidly becoming the most popular science programs in America.”
Mason, who also serves as chair of the Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation, said the gift was a response to the increasing popularity of FIRST Robotics and FIRST Lego among students in a number of grades in the Oak Ridge schools.
The Oak Ridge High School FIRST Robotics fielded its initial team in 2012, competing in the regional competition in Knoxville and advancing to the national competition in St. Louis. Working evenings and on Saturdays with mentors from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the team was challenged to raise funds, design a team brand, hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.
This year’s task required building a robot that could shoot a basketball at different heights during a timed competition.
Oak Ridge elementary and middle schools also participate in the FIRST LEGO League, a robotics competition for children from nine years old to 16 that is hosted at Tennessee Tech University.
FIRST LEGO League encourages teams to mix curiosity and imagination with LEGO bricks, sensors, motors, and gears to invent unique, autonomous robots capable of completing various missions and find solutions to real-world problems. More than 60 teams participate annually in the Tennessee competition.
Cathy Toth, campaign chair for the Foundation’s fundraising effort, said she was “delighted and encouraged” by UT-Battelle’s pledge to fund the science competitions.
“The campaign’s purpose is to provide teachers and students with funds that can make the critical difference between a learning experience that is adequate and one that is truly outstanding,” Toth said. “UT-Battelle’s gift hits the mark.”
Toth said all funds from the campaign will be awarded on the basis of competitive grants submitted by teachers and are available to all grades in all Oak Ridge schools.
The Education Foundation kicked off the campaign at Oak Ridge High School with a goal of securing pledges from corporations and individual donors of $100,000 a year for the next five years. People wishing to learn more about the campaign can visit the Foundation’s web site at www.orpsef.org or call (865) 241-3667.