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Promoting Diversity and Public School Success in FIRST LEGO League State Competitions

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Attracting Young Minds: Part II

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1195.1 - 22.1195.8



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Paper Authors


Jeffrey H. Rosen Georgia Institute of Technology, CEISMC

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A veteran of the high school and middle school classroom integrating technology and engineering into Mathematics instruction, now working at the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, leading programs that research and train K-12 teachers on the use of engineering design and robotics to teach core academic standards. As the Operational Partner for FIRST LEGO League in Georgia over the last three year has increase overall participation from 1,200 to over 2,200 students. With this experience has co-authored three ASEE papers on FIRST LEGO League and engineering in the middle school classroom. My current projects include an NSF research project called Science Learning Integrating Design, Engineering, and Robotics (SLIDER) and a NASA online professional development course for K-12 teacher on Using LEGO Robots to Enhance STEM Learning.

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Anna Newsome Georgia Institute of Technology, CEISMC

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Anna Newsome serves as a Program Coordinator for the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), the K-12 outreach arm of Georgia Tech. She provides input and assistance to various projects at CEISMC, including Science Learning Integrating Design, Engineering, and Robotics (SLIDER). Anna received a Bachelors of Science in Public Policy from Georgia Tech in 2008. After graduation Anna spent a year working for a private sector event firm before eagerly returning to her alma mater.

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Marion Usselman Georgia Institute of Technology

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Marion Usselman is Associate Director for Federal Outreach and Research for Georgia Tech's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing. She has been with CEISMC since 1996 managing programs, interacting with K-12 schools, and assisting Georgia Tech faculty in creating K-12 educational outreach initiatives. Before coming to CEISMC, Marion earned her Ph.D. in Biophysics from the Johns Hopkins University and taught biology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

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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. 10.18260/1-2--18880

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