The arrival of a long, thin cardboard box prompted great excitement in the office this week. A small group of colleagues gathered around it, small numbered bags were removed and briefly inspected before it was stowed under a desk.
At lunchtime, the box was retrieved and the group hurried off to a nearby meeting room. A few moments later, another colleague arrived armed with takeout pizza. Unable to contain my curiosity any longer, I asked the colleague with pizza what was going on. “Come in and see,” he said.
Lunch n’ Lego
What I discovered was an incredibly innovative volunteering idea. Ten CSC colleagues were unpacking LEGO sets which they would donate their lunch break to assembling. These plastic bricks were the same as one might remember from childhood, but had a very unique and different purpose.
These volunteers were building “challenge set mission models”, a sort of LEGO obstacle course, to be used by children competing in the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL). A global science and technology not-for-profit, FLL hosts tournaments where teams of 9-16 year olds work together to design, build and program an autonomous LEGO robot to solve a series of missions.
While the children themselves build and program the robots, they need the Mission Models in order to take part in the tournaments. I caught up with Candace Labelle, Managing Director of the CSC Charitable Foundation to find out more.
Addressing the STEM skills shortage
“The CSC Charitable Foundation supports FIRST, including FIRST® LEGO® League as part of our robotics program, and a key part of our commitment to promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education,” said Candace, adding, “According to a recent report, by 2018, projections estimate the need for 8.65 million workers in STEM-related jobs, but there currently aren’t enough young people studying science, technology, engineering and math to the required level.”
“STEM education is important because our industry needs people with these skills,” Candace said. “We love supporting organizations like FIRST. Our employees love investing in their communities, and the future of technology around the world”.
In order to help tackle the skills gap, schools and universities worldwide now use fun, competitive robotics programs to introduce students to STEM skills and career opportunities. It’s a drive that CSC is more than happy to support through its volunteer-run robotics program.
“The ‘Lunch n’ Lego’ sessions are a perfect example of a practical, skills-based volunteering activity,” said Candace, adding “because the Mission Models are identical the whole world round for use in tournaments, they all have to be 100 percent perfect. That doesn’t seem to deter the volunteers though – they love the chance to get contribute and it’s a great way of getting teams together.” Judging by the satisfied smiles from my colleagues following their ‘lunch n’ Lego’ session, I can certainly attest to that.