To use an exciting robotic experience to inspire youth to appreciate STEM opportunities and to invest in the next generation.
- Increase STEP awareness and appreciation in the general public.
- Immerse participants in a real-world design experience that integrates science, technology, engineering, programming, and non-technical skills which typically contribute to the success of real-world designs.
- Increase participants’ self-efficacy in science, technology, engineering, and programming.
- Help students understand the importance and reward of investing in those following behind them in the STEP educational pipeline.
- Leverage the STEP competition experience to foster long term mentoring relationships.
- Use mentoring relationships to influence youth to adopt lasting values including self-confidence, team appreciation, and hard work.
How It Works and What It’s All About
The STEP competition challenges students to work as a team to build remote-controlled robots that accomplish a defined task within a competitive setting. That is, however, just the beginning. Students cycle through the explore/build/test/refine process in each phase of the competition. With each phase the objective evolves to keep students challenged and engaged. The pace of the engagement allows the team to deeply explore areas such as Project Management, CAD, Programming, Engineering Design and Marketing.
STEP is also pushing the boundaries to make the experience more relevant in today’s fast-evolving world. STEP incorporates a scientific research and publication element. As part of the game, teams plan a scientific experiment. Their observations and findings are documented in technical briefs, a conference-style oral presentation, professional journal-style research paper, and online expository videos. Teams are also challenged to explore new marketing tools including social media, webpages, and open-access video repositories.
In the end, students are invited to partake in every aspect of the new product development cycle. Competition categories include:
- Robot Value which weighs the points accumulated through the season against the simulated cost the team incurred during development.
- Technical Communication which includes research documentation, written and live presentations, and online video expositions.
- Community STEM Impact which uses social media, online video exposition, and impact/education at the STEP Circuit Final to broaden impact.
- Product Marketing which includes social media, team website, online video, and efforts at the STEP Circuit Final.
STEP is further distinguished by the spectator-audience we target. We intentionally seek out venues that extend the program’s impact by recruiting elementary schools as host sites. Elementary students are eager explorers and have voracious appetites for new technology. Unfortunately, much of what they see is unapproachable, inaccessible, and almost certainly not something they themselves can do. STEP removes some of the mystery and reduces intimidation by exhibiting real accomplishments of their near-aged peers. Staging these encounters before they have formed preconceptions about their own limitations allows them to legitimately entertain ideas like “I can do this too,” and “this could be fun.” Where competitions are typically the end goal, for STEP, the competitions are merely new beginnings.