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- Student Experience
Back in 2017, we met with Ms. Carrie Mohoruk to talk about a small club she had just started. In its first year, it had built up a steady membership of about 60 students. Unexpectedly well received, Ms. Mohoruk was in the great-but-busy position of keeping up. As the club’s main recruiter, manager, teacher, mentor, designer, and fundraiser, Ms. Mohoruk found herself a Diploma Programme (DP) Chemistry teacher by day and a Robotics Club Leader in the mornings, during lunchtime, and at night.
Five years later, not much has changed.
“As long as students are learning and benefiting from Robotics, I’ll keep it up,” Ms. Mohoruk smiles. With a nearly doubled club membership and seven teams, she has more than kept things up. Students are learning and benefitting just as she hoped. After that first year, Ms. Mohoruk continued to recruit students and promote and advance the club. A unique part of Robotics—the reason why she chose First Lego League to begin with—is that everyone, not just coders, designers, or builders, can get involved. In FTC, there are opportunities for students of all kinds and any talents or interest. Teams are compiled of coders, designers, and builders, yes, but they also have promoters, artists, managers, and fundraisers. “Each team is basically a start-up engineering company,” Ms. Mohoruk nods. With room for everyone, the club is as much about collaboration, teamwork and problem-solving as it is about STEM and robotics. Ms. Mohoruk has now become an expert recruiter, keeping an eye out for students with special talents that they themselves might not even yet know.
This year, Ms. Mohoruk has 90 FTC students enrolled.
What is FIRST?
It stands for ‘For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology’, and it is one of the largest student robotics programs in the world. FIRST® leagues guide youth through STEM learning and exploration starting from an early age.
Through involvement in the First Lego League Lego-based Explore and Challenge teams in the PYP and MYP, to the more complex metal-based First Tech Challenge in high school, students will understand the basics of STEM and apply their skills in exciting competitions while building habits of learning, confidence, and teamwork skills along the way.
First Lego League (FLL) Explore
Grades 2 to 3 (4 kits)
First Lego League (FLL) Challenge
Grades 5 to 8 (15 kits)
First Tech Challenge (FTC)
Grades 9 to 12 (7 kits)
“It’s my mission to have every student at least experience robotics in some way,” she shares. With that, the teacher-turned-robotics-coach is not only leading her own middle and high school clubs, but also working to start clubs down in the elementary school too. Two of her FTC teams now mentor younger teams, while Ms. Mohoruk herself is working with teachers to launch elementary clubs. Beyond the walls of Meadowridge, a group of her students also spent the summer mentoring a robotics team from The Gambia, Africa. “None of this is required,” Ms. Mohoruk shares, “students decide how much they want to mentor, fundraise, or promote—it’s all about ownership.” Mentorship not only helps promote learning and awareness, but also earns the mentoring teams grants. This grant money goes into the team’s budget which they can use for a variety of things, including buying the extensive equipment needed for creative and effective robot builds. It is a complete educational experience.
With room for everyone, the club is as much about collaboration, teamwork and problem-solving as it is about STEM and robotics.
With so many teams and mentorships happening, Ms. Mohoruk’s time is now spent “putting out fires” and “giving students a nudge.” She supports students with what they need, but also gives them the freedom to grapple with problems, solve them, and (sometimes) fail. With so many elements involved, Ms. Mohoruk wanders from group to group, solving coding problems with one, filling out fundraising requests with the next, and then helping out newer, younger teams with team communications and management. It’s nonstop and all encompassing.
As our conversation with Ms. Mohoruk winds down, a Grade 9 student wanders into her classroom holding a big piece of metal. “We want to cut it here,” he asks, pointing to the centre. Ms. Mohoruk gets up, checks it out, and heads off to problem-solve with the team. It’s 4:00pm on Friday and robotics has only just begun.
Five years later and not much has changed.
Timeline of Robotics at Meadowridge
2016/17 3 FLL teams & 16 members
2017/18 2 FLL teams & 16 members
2018/19 4 FLL teams & 19 members, FTC Robotics opens with 2 teams & 20 members, Robotics mentorship begins
2019/20 6 FLL teams & 36 members, 2 teams qualify for provincials
2020/21 Robotics is cancelled due to the pandemic
2021/22 Robotics reopens, 8 FLL teams & 48 members, 7 FTC teams & 88 members