When the Philadelphia School District and the Robotics Coalition announced plans to compete in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge this Spring, Bob Kenyon, coach of the Robotics Team at the Jenks Academy of the Arts and Sciences, knew his team would not be ready unless they upgraded their equipment.
When the Philadelphia School District and the Robotics Coalition announced plans to compete in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge this Spring, Bob Kenyon, coach of the Robotics Team at the Jenks Academy of the Arts and Sciences, knew his team would not be ready unless they upgraded their equipment. This virtual competition has been modified by the regional Robotics Coalition to be held in early May, with team challenges adapted to fit a digital platform. Kenyon, the Jenks REACH/Enrichment Coordinator now in his eighth year, has led the Jaguars Robotics team for the last four years. “I am familiar with the LEGO kits Jenks has and most lack the upgrades that LEGO has made.”
The Jenks Academy offers enrichment opportunities in their REACH program as well as their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Music) courses and the Robotics Team is an extension of these project-based classes. There are times when the school budget may not cover the costs of some extracurricular clubs and materials, and Kenyon knew funding assistance would be required.
Cue DonorsChoose, a US-based, non-profit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects. According to their mission they “make it easy for anyone to help a teacher in need, moving us closer to a nation where students in every community have the tools and experiences they need for a great education.” Kenyon had been successful in the past raising money through DonorsChoose and thought he may have luck again. He named his project Robots within REACH and requested funding for new LEGO Education Spike Sets and touchscreen Chromebooks, which would allow students to more easily interact with the robot coding programs.
Through the DonorsChoose website, Kenyon was able to secure The Walt Disney Company as a corporate sponsor, which was an enormous feat. On the Robots within REACH fundraising page, Disney stated that they believe “science and technology can inspire and motivate the next generation of youth. We are proud to collaborate with FIRST to support teachers as they empower their students in a variety of learning environments during this much needed time. Thank you for joining us in our mission to ensure all students have access to STEM learning!” Disney’s funding, along with generous private contributors, helped Robots within REACH achieve their goal and fulfill the financial needs for the Jenks Jaguars to compete in the FIRST LEGO Challenge. This year's test is called the 'RePLAY Challenge' and the team will be tasked to identify and develop a solution for opportunities to play safely in sports and activities.
Kenyon and the Jenks Jaguars Robotics Team are thankful for the donations made through DonorsChoose to upgrade their equipment, as well as the support of the Jenks principal Mary Lynskey and the staff who work hard to develop opportunities for student engagement. Over the years, Friends of Jenks, the Jenks HSA, and the Chestnut Hill community have worked with the staff at Jenks to fund many projects and promote classroom fundraisers. It certainly takes a village, and those efforts and all avenues of generosity are greatly appreciated.
To help fund projects at Jenks and other local public schools, visit donorschoose.org and search by your zipcode. To learn more about the FLL LEGO Challenge visit: firstinspires.org and to follow the team visit facebook.com/RoboticsCoalition/