Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSSI) has received a $25,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund to support Girl Scout STEM Robotics Leadership in Jersey, Macoupin, Madison and St. Clair counties. Robotics are a key component of GSSI’s commitment to giving girls opportunities and guidance in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). By participating in three different robotics leagues at three different age levels, GSSI aims to engage more girls across southern Illinois in STEM, so that they can explore valuable career options, build critical thinking and technical skills and sustain a lifelong interest in topics that many girls drift away from by middle school.
“Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois is very grateful to be able to provide even more girls an opportunity to participate in STEM programs and compete on a robotics team through support from the Monsanto Fund,” said Mary Buchanan, GSSI Robotics Manager. “Engaging girls in STEM in fun, creative ways helps keep their interest in these valuable career fields, as well as develop their confidence, teamwork and problem solving abilities.”
This grant is part of a broad commitment by the Monsanto Fund focused on strengthening the Greater St. Louis community where Monsanto Company is headquartered.
“The Monsanto Fund is proud to support Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois as it continues to provide new learning opportunities for students in our local communities,” said Michelle Insco, Monsanto Fund program officer. “While women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, they continue to be underrepresented in many STEM-related jobs. Programs like Girl Scout STEM Robotics Leadership make science, math and engineering more engaging and helps boost interest in these fields.”
The grant will help fund GSSI’s robotics season which starts this fall with FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®). In this global robotics program for 9 to 14 year olds, participants build and program a robot using LEGO components. Teams also conduct a research project and explore FLL Core Values such as active participation, teamwork and gracious professionalism. After months of practice and preparation, teams begin competing at regional tournaments, with the highest scoring teams proceeding to a global tournament.
The grant money will also be used to support several Junior FIRST Lego League (JrFLL®) teams and First Tech Challenge Team, which belong to a league that challenges middle and high school students to build an autonomous robot then program them using Java in Android Studio. The FTC Team competes in the fall/winter. In 2016, our FTC team qualified for both the Missouri and Illinois State Championships and won numerous awards. This was made possible partially to Monsanto Fund support and funding.
The grant will also allow GSSI to purchase additional equipment to facilitate the robotics program, including robot kits and tablets. Financial assistance for girls who cannot afford the $15 registration fee to join Girl Scouts will also be provided.
GSSI’s STEM program continues to be a progressive and forward-thinking initiative that has grown exponentially in recent years. In 2009, GSSI had just one robotics team. In 2015, GSSI fielded 30 teams. GSSI has dedicated staff and volunteers who develop the STEM program through research, collaborator cultivation, training and hands-on experience. GSSI strives to offer diverse and high-quality STEM programming, such as simple circuit wiring, programming robots, exploring forensics and more. To ensure that all girls have the chance to take advantage of these future-building opportunities, GSSI has integrated STEM activities into its outreach programs – which bring Girl Scouting to girls in underserved populations, such as low income neighborhoods, housing projects, rural communities and even detention centers.