KIPP Lego League Team

STEM Spotlight: KIPP NYC Leads the Way with FIRST!

KIPP NYC is broadening access to rigorous STEM programs and changing representation in the STEM field of the future!

KIPP Lego League Team

By Hilah Barbot, KIPP Foundation STE Achievement Director

After receiving the FIRST STEM Equity Grant this past year, KIPP NYC launched 18 FIRST Teams (12 elementary and 6 middle schools). “FIRST has already impacted students’ mindsets around STEM,” says KIPP NYC Director of Science Chéla Wallace, “when polling our 50 participating elementary students, almost half now state they want to be an engineer or scientist due to their experience with FIRST.”

“FIRST has allowed our students to see themselves as the next Leland Melvin or Katherine Johnson—it’s provided inspiration for them to dream BIG and the belief that they  CAN do anything in the world of STEM despite what society says about children from under-resourced or underserved communities,” states Ms. Wallace.

In their first year, KIPP NYC’s FIRST teams soared:

  • KIPP Infinity Middle School’s Guardians of the Galaxy FIRST Lego League Team (led by Brayden Lowek and Kenneth Williams, a KIPP Alumnus) finished 27th out of 64 teams at the NYC City Expo and served as the “Showcase Team” at the NYC High School Championship.
  • FIRST Lego League Jr. teams from KIPP Infinity Elementary (led by Wyman Khuu and Nathan Crowe) and KIPP Academy NYC Elementary (led by Fatima Wilson, Adwoa Nyantakyi, Shianne Washington, and Devin Rice) both won the “Golden Ticket” at their local Expo and were invited to continue onto the city-wide competition.

According to Mr. Khuu, “The most satisfying part of coaching a FIRST Lego League Jr. team was watching students iterate on failed designs, learn to cope with challenging team dynamics and learn how to be both leaders and teammates throughout the process with a goal that was bigger than themselves. The beauty of it all is that the students were all able to figure it out on their own.”

Bryan Baez, a KIPP Infinity fourth grader echoed Mr. Khuu’s sentiment: “In the end, we won the Golden Ticket because we combined our ideas so that we would have the best base and robot. I learned that sometimes it is better to work as a team than just try to do everything by myself.”

Next year, KIPP NYC plans to expand their FIRST Teams across all schools K-12. Huge congratulations to all of KIPP NYC for their work broadening access to rigorous STEM programs and for changing representation in the STEM field of the future!