June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Minorities in Engineering
22.1195.1 - 22.1195.8
Promoting Diversity and Public School Success in First Lego League State CompetitionsThe FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition is frequently promoted as an effective method ofintroducing middle school children to engineering problem solving and of increasing the pipelineof students into engineering and other STEM disciplines. It has become a very popular programin (State), with the number of (State) teams registering with FLL increasing from 48 in 2004 to289 in 2009. The number of students participating has increased from fewer than 400 in 2004, toover 1,900 in 2009, necessitating two rounds of qualifying tournaments before the StateTournament held at (University). Clearly FLL is a highly successful program that provides acompelling experience to middle school students, and appeals to the parent, teacher, universityand corporate volunteers necessary to coordinate the program.One of the goals of the state tournament FLL organizers is to promote the best possiblecompetition experiences for the largest number of children. When the state FLL participationbecame too large to accommodate the whole field with a single state competition, weimplemented the first level of qualifying tournaments. The majority of teams that emergedsuccessful from these qualifying tournaments were home school, private school, andneighborhood teams, and virtually all of the state-level awards went to those teams. The numberof public school teams that made it to the final round was disproportionately low. Though girlswere represented at the final state championship in numbers comparable to their numbers in theinitial rounds, the number of minority students dropped precipitously after the first round. Thisdrop is directly traceable to where the teams were located (i.e. in public schools), how manyhours they could dedicate to the task, and how experienced the coach and team members were.In 2008 we began assigning each team a “Power Rating” based on their prior experience andamount of time allotted to the activity. Independent neighborhood teams have, on average, thehighest Power Rating, and public schools teams have the lowest. Teams were then assigned toone of the qualifying competitions partly based on their power rating to increase the likelihoodthat teams would compete against teams of similar strength in those initial rounds. This paperwill address the effects this strategy has had on the participation and success of public schoolteams and minority students.
Rosen, J. H., & Newsome, A., & Usselman, M. (2011, June), Promoting Diversity and Public School Success in FIRST LEGO League State Competitions Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/18880
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