LigerBot Delegates Attend FIRST National Advocacy Conference in DC

The Newton LigerBots sent a delegation to the FIRST National Advocacy Conference, June 24-26 in Washington, DC, representing Massachusetts along with the Green Reapers team from Worcester. The 250 conference attendees learned about how bills get passed, how to advocate effectively, what other teams are doing at the state level, and the two STEM-related aims of FIRST’s current advocacy:

  • Reauthorization of the Perkins Act, which supports technical education and STEM opportunities in second careers for those who may otherwise not be able to afford it, and
  • Full funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which provides flexible block grants that school districts can use to for high-quality STEM programs both in the classroom and after school.

On the last day of the conference, the LigerBot delegates met with Representative Joseph Kennedy as well as with staff of Senators Warren and Markey, and Representative Capuano to talk about FIRST, STEM, the Perkins Act, and ESSA.

Survey: Empow Studios Seeks Teens’ Opinions About New Programs

Empow Studios is planning to expand its programs for teens in Newton and Lexington and would like to hear from teens and their parents about what programs they would like to see offered. The company’s online survey is anonymous — unless you choose the option to provide your name and email address in order to be informed of future programs and provide more feedback in the future. It should take less than 5 minutes to complete. Empow Studios would appreciate your survey response by July 15, if possible.

Kids 4 Coding: Summer Programs in Cambridge and Brookline

Kids 4 Coding, based in Atlanta, offers full-day and half-day summer programs for ages 7-16 in two Boston locations:  Newbury College in Brookline and Lesley University in Cambridge.  Space is still available in the following programs during some weeks in one or both locations:

  • Ages 7-8:  Build & Code Robots + Minecraft;
    Code with Music + Game Design
  • Ages 8-9:  Robotics + Game Design;
    Minecraft + Engineering
  • Ages 9-10:  Fly & Code Drones + Game Design;
    Build Your Own Computer with Minecraft Pi
  • Ages 10-12:  ROBLOX: code, design & publish games;
    Team Robotics & Visual Programming;
    Game Design & Python Programming;
    Build & Code Your Own Take-Home Laptop;
    Design & Code Wearable Tech + 3D Design
  • Ages 13-16:  Teen Entrepreneur: Web Development;
    Learn to Code through Music;
    Build Your Own Take-Home Laptop;
    Game Design

Boston Tech Mom: Tech Events for Kids in July

Boston Tech Mom (“a parent’s guide to raising a future techie”) is a great resource for all things STEM around Boston — including her monthly posts about free or low-cost STEM Events for Kids in Boston. Here’s her July list of STEM events.

Newton Free Library: STEM Events in July

The Newton Free Library will host the following STEM event(s) in July (not including Finch Robots, LEGO WeDo, and Engineering Club, for which registration has ended).

World Robot Olympiad – Still Time to Register for the MA/CT Qualifying Competition, Aug. 11

Next month, Semia USA will host the Massachusetts/Connecticut qualifying competition for the national level of the World Robot Olympiad in September. The MA/CT qualifier will take place at the Woburn Boys & Girls Club (1 Charles Gardner Ln, Woburn) on August 11, 8AM-6PM. Competition will take place in these categories: Regular (both Jr. High and Elementary) and WeDo (for ages up to 10). While the Introductory Info session was held back in May, it’s still possible to register a team (at at cost of $150 per team, plus materials). And the event is open to spectators without registration. For more information, contact Jeannette Passanisi at or 617-959-4305.

Apply Now for STEM Pathways One-Day Lab Training in Synthetic Biology for Grades 10-12, July 14

Monday at 10PM is the deadline to apply for a one-day Training Session in Synthetic Biology in a real, synthetic biology environment. It’s offered to students entering Grades 10-12 (ages 16 and older) by STEM Pathways — the synthetic biology outreach program of the Living Computing Project — and the DAMP (Design | Automation | Manufacturing | Prototyping) Lab.  It will be held 10AM-4PM on July 14 on the Boston University campus. Apply online by 10PM on July 2. Include the name, email, and phone number of a teacher, mentor, or coach as a reference. For more information, email or call Rohin at 617-299-0816.

Open House at MIT PlayLabs, July 3

The MIT Game Lab invites the public to an open house on July 3, 5-8PM, at 32 Vassar Street in Cambridge to try out the latest products and games from companies it is hosting at Play Labs. Technologies include educational games and tools, augmented/mixed reality, blockchain, eSports, natural language, artificial intelligence, etc. The Game Lab will also showcase CLEVR, a multiplayer virtual-reality game about cellular biology that it is developing with the MIT Education Arcade. For more information, email

Register for Broad Institute’s Midsummer Night’s Science, July 18

The Broad Institute hosts Midsummer Nights’ Science, a series of lectures open to the public on a variety of topics.  Each is held at 415 Main Street, Kendall Square, Cambridge, on a Wednesday, 6:30-7:30PM, and followed by a reception. Registration is required, opens on a rolling basis, and is available now for the first lecture.

How to Plug Into the FIRST LEGO League in Newton

While the high-school FIRST Robotics Competition action in Newton is focused on the highly visible LigerBots, parents and kids may find it a bit difficult to get going in the younger levels, FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for Grades 4-8 and FIRST LEGO League Jr. for Grades K-3. There are about 15 FLL teams and at least a few FLL Jr. teams in Newton. Parents may want to find a team for their kids to join, but it’s sometimes not easy to add kids to existing teams. The best way to get your kids involved is to start a team, and there’s lots of help available — online as well as from others in Newton — to get you going.

The LigerBots provide support for developing FLL and FLL Jr. teams.  Last week, the LigerBots held an information session for interested parents (see photos), and each fall the team runs two FLL tournaments — a regional qualifier and the Eastern Massachusetts Championship — at Newton North HS, where parents and kids can see what it’s all about. The team also maintains a webpage of FLL information useful for parents and coaches.  If you missed last week’s information session, you can see the presentation here. You can also fill out the LigerBots’ FLL Survey to get on their mailing list and ask to be connected with nearby parents and kids interested in forming FLL or FLL Jr. teams. The LigerBots will follow up with respondents soon. You can also email with questions or requests for help.

In addition, Empow Studios is hosting FLL teams that will meet on Sundays in Newton and Lexington. Their online application has more information.

FLL Jr for Grades K-3 has challenges based on the same theme as the Grade 4-8 FLL teams, but with more age-appropriate materials. The theme for 2018/2019 is “Mission Moon.”  Teams are given a general problem to solve, and each team decides how they want to solve it and then creates a Lego model to illustrate their solution, creates a poster to go into more depth, and prepares a talk to explain their work.  Teams are 2-6 students and 2 or more coaches.