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Diversifying Participation In First Lego League

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Gender & Minority Issues in K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.446.1 - 13.446.12



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Paper Authors


Marion Usselman Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr. Marion C. Usselman is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and
Computing (CEISMC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Marion received her Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University and has taught in the Biology Department at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She
focuses on equity issues in education and K-12 educational reform. She has co-directed the Georgia FLL program since 2001.

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Jeff Davis Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr. Jeffrey Davis, an associate professor of computer engineering at Georgia Tech, received his B.E.E., M.S.E.E., and Ph.D. from Georgia Tech in 1993, 1997, and 1999, respectively. In January 2001, he was awarded the National Science Foundation CAREER Award for excellence as a young educator and researcher. He has published over 40 journal, conference, and workshop papers. In 2001 Dr. Davis also initiated the first FIRST LEGO League competition in Georgia, and has served as the Georgia FLL tournament director since then.

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Jeff Rosen Georgia Institute of Technology

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Jeff Rosen is a Program Director in Georgia Tech's Center for Education Integrating Science, Math and Computing (CEISMC), leading up K-12 student activities in technology. Before arriving at Georgia Tech, Jeff was a veteran high school mathematics and technology teacher at Wheeler High School in Cobb County, Georgia, and organized the school's extensive robotics program.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Diversifying Participation in FIRST Lego League Introduction

The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition is frequently promoted as an effective method of introducing middle school children to engineering problem solving and of increasing the pipeline of students into engineering and other STEM disciplines1,2,3,4,5,6. The FLL program challenges students ages 9-14 to tackle a problem with a socially relevant theme and is designed to increase the students’ awareness of current affairs and possible engineering solutions. Each student team is required to build a robot that can perform 8-10 tasks that relate to the overarching theme, and to research the theme and develop a product or strategy to address the social issue. The tournament consists of the robot competition, presentation of the research projects, and an analysis of the technical and creative merits of the robot design. Historically, FLL has addressed issues such as alternative power sources and use of resources (2007), an exploration into the possibilities of nanotechnology (2006), the ocean resources and how we interact with them (2005) and making the world more accessible to the disabled (2004).

The 2007 international FLL competition, coordinated by FIRST LEGO League International, is projected to include 10,600 teams and 106,000 children from 31 countries7. This is an increase of 18% over the previous year’s participation rate. The FLL growth in Georgia has been even more dramatic, with the Figure 1--Number of Georgia Teams Registered with FLL number of Georgia teams registering with FLL 300

increasing from 48 in 2004 250 to 244 in 2007, for an average increase of 75% per 200 # Teams

year for each of the last 5 150 years (Figure 1). Clearly FLL is a highly successful 100 program that provides a 50 compelling experience to middle school students, and 0 appeals to the parent, 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Year teacher, university and corporate volunteers necessary to coordinate the program.

As more and more resources in the form of both time and money are dedicated to any student enrichment program, it is important to monitor exactly who is participating and under what circumstances. This information can help us to proactively create an infrastructure that promotes successful participation by students historically under-represented in the field. It is currently impossible to find data about the demographics of students participating in the national FLL program, as the national organization does not collect these types of statistics from the individual teams or state organizers. During the last two years the Georgia state-wide FLL program, which

Usselman, M., & Davis, J., & Rosen, J. (2008, June), Diversifying Participation In First Lego League Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3475

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