The Wolf Pack Bots qualify to compete in the Northern Nevada LEGO® Championship

The Wolf Pack Bots qualify to compete in the Northern Nevada LEGO® Championship

The Wolf Pack Bots Robotics team of the College of Education and Human Development’s Center for Education and Human Development recently won first place for the Innovation Award at the Northern Nevada FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) playoffs. Strong mentorship and hard work pays off as the young Wolf Pack Bots advance to the Northern Nevada FLL Championship on February 4, 2023 in Carson City, Nevada.

Rachel Salas, Director of the Center for Learning and Literacy, coaches and leads this program with the help of graduate mentor Monica Bharti and undergraduate student mentors Nanami Duncan, Vivana Reyes, and Laniel Pavlik.

Salas sees this program as a way to positively influence young people, many of whom were recruited from the center’s literacy education programme. Most of the team members identify as multilingual, are in grades four through eight and come from various Title 1 schools throughout Washoe County. The team is made up of members from predominantly ethnically and linguistically marginalized populations.

Wolf Pack Bots mentor (Nanami Duncan) and team member work together on the 2022-23 FLL game board

Salas started the center’s FIRST® LEGO® League robotics program in 2017. She said the program continues to help children gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. Salas was also honored with the Coach/Guide Award at the FLL Nevada State Championships in 2021.

“My goal is to give children the tools to be confident and believe in themselves and have this ‘the sky is the limit: I can do this’ worldview, whether they are a girl or a boy, whether they have a disability, a speech impediment or are classified as an English language learner in school. “That’s empowering, the way I see it,” she said.

The impact of the program is positive and multifaceted. By participating in the FLL program, students have been able to improve their reading, writing, speaking, listening and research skills. Literacy and STEM skills are used consistently throughout the program, demonstrating the close connection between literacy and STEM. Team members and their parents continually verify that team members have developed greater communication skills and confidence in themselves and their STEM identity because of their participation in the Wolf Pack Bots Program.

Dean Easton Brooks with Wolf Pack Bot Students holding their botsDean Donald Easton-Brooks with members of the Wolf Pack Bots team and the bots they helped design.

“It is incredibly humbling to have such an outstanding and innovative program as the Wolf Pack Bots Program,” said Donald Easton Brooks, dean of the College of Education and Human Development. “One of our missions at the college is to build more bridges between STEM and teacher education. Wolf Pack Bots are one of our unique connections in that not only do they fulfill our mission, but they also connect disadvantaged students to technology they have never had the chance to use.” while improving their language and math skills in such a powerful way. For Dr. Salas, this is a win for the university and the state of Nevada, which is why we are committed to long-term support for the program.”

The Wolf Bot team wears holiday hats and holds a bannerWolf Pack Bots at the 2022 FLL Qualifier Event with COEHD Student Mentor, Viviana Reyes

The theme for this year’s FIRST® LEGO® League season is “Superpowercm, “which encourages students to learn about different types of energy sources, storage and distribution methods, and the ways in which energy is consumed.” The Wolf Pack Bots are tasked with designing and programming a bot that can accomplish tasks related to this theme, using the game mat provided with LEGO® pieces.

The university’s K-12 Robotics Center at the Innovation Center serves as an open space where a team of Wolf Pack bots design, build and test their creations. The K-12 Robotics Center also provided expertise and supplies for the team innovation project, 3D wolf swap gifts given to other teams in the playoffs and embroidered hats for the team.

“The Innovation Center and its staff have always been welcoming and supportive of Wolf Pack bots,” Salas said. “Anya Calville-Mason and her staff give us space when needed, and no matter what crazy ideas the team may have for an innovation project, Daniel Smith and his amazing team at Makerspace are always ready to help us! The Innovation Center has been an invaluable resource for the Wolf Pack bots.”

Last year, the team won two Innovation Project Awards and a Global Innovation Nomination at the Northern Nevada FLL Championship and a Global Innovation Award for the Nevada region. This award rewards teams for problem-solving, creativity and innovation with the opportunity to further pursue innovation project solutions.

To learn more about the Wolf Pack Bots program, visit the Learning and Literacy Center website.

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