IMG_9101 copyThe Help Group’s Village Glen School is proud to be participating in the 2015 FIRST Robotics Competition. A team of eight students – team Knightrise – are taking part in the six-week “Recycle Rush” challenge to engineer a robot that can perform multiple pre-determined recycling functions and promote technology based environmental innovation.

Team members Chris, Lily, Alec, Walter, Thomas, Cullen, Jared and Taylor, will face 40 teams from schools throughout Ventura and part of Los Angeles Counties. Each team received an identical ‘Kit of Parts’ from which to construct a robotic device, and on March 29 the winning team will be announced in a qualifier for the national round.

Chris, one of the Knightrise Team members explained how STEM curriculum benefits him and his teammates in the competition. “This opportunity is allowing us to apply what we’ve learned in class, but in a way we hadn’t previously had a chance to do – things like understanding the bio-mechanics of the claw mechanism, tension on a chain, or where weight is placed on a lever.”

The Help Group’s STEM initiative is designed to integrate into the curriculum a variety of hands-on, intensive classes focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math such as programming, robotics, digital arts, 3D printing, AP Environmental Science and entrepreneurship. Dr. Susan Berman, Chief Operating Officer at The Help Group who spearheaded the initiative says, “Village Glen School incorporates a wide-range of STEM coursework to promote cutting edge, 21st century work skills, and to prepare college-bound students for success by encouraging creativity, critical thinking skills and problem solving strategies.”

Dr. Ellis Crasnow, Director of STEM Education for Village Glen Schools, is heading team Knightrise. “These remarkable young people have natural talents and abilities like superior visual discrimination, intense focus, and sometimes superior math or technical ability, which make a STEM career especially appropriate. This has led us as a school to offer a range of STEM classes from K-12, to establish an Innovation Lab, and to encourage our students to engage in public competitions such as the JPL Challenge and the FIRST Robotics competition.”

FIRST Robotics was established to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills. While working with his teammates, Chris shared, “I want to go to college and this competition is giving me an understanding of teamwork. I’m learning to be confident about contributing my ideas but also trying out other people’s ideas and making concessions. It’s teaching me how to manage a timeline and my schedule, and its real world application is preparing me for my future.”

017These 21st century skills – like the ability to cooperate and collaborate with team members, to make a presentation, to be organized and to meet deadlines are critically important for success in the workplace, as are the other more apparent proficiency based skills necessary in a competitive job market.

“The Help Group’s STEM initiative offers the technical skills and expertise that will serve our students on the autism spectrum well, that will support them in applying for and attaining meaningful, lifelong employment,” says Dr. Berman. “The Help Group is so proud of team Knightrise and we wish them success in the First Robotics Competition.”

To learn more about Village Glen School and its STEM program visit: