FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) designs programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. Begun ten years ago with the FIRST Robotics Competition (comprised of 28 teams and held in a New Hampshire high school gym), the FIRST program has grown to more than 600 teams participating nationwide and internationally, in 17 Regional events and a Championship event.
CCT conducted a small-scale qualitative study of the impact of the New York FIRST program on key stakeholders working with New York City high schools, specifically teachers heading up FIRST work in partner schools; engineers and other mentors to FIRST teams; school administrators in partner schools; community relations managers at corporate sponsors; and student participants in FIRST teams. We examined the impact of the FIRST program in the following core areas: attitudes and skills among students; schools' relationships to the outside community; influence on the school's curriculum; and influence on teachers' pedagogy. In addition, the evaluation looked at key implementation issues, including: how team, school, and sponsor work together effectively and the program's effect on corporate partnerships.
To gain the best sense of how the FIRST program is impacting different schools and populations, we selected, with the help of New York City FIRST staff, a sample of five schools that represent distinctly different approaches to education, different populations, and varying degrees of involvement with FIRST, such as vocational educational high schools, specialized science/technical high schools, and generalized curriculum high schools.