“Six- to nine-year-olds are like sponges, they are so smart and absorb everything going on around them. It’s the perfect age to expose them to new hobbies and interests.” -Shamrin Virani, Project Manager, Northeast

From January to March 2019, students of New York Headquarters Jamatkhana participated in the robotics program, which taught them crucial motor skills and life lessons. Students from first through fourth grades collaborated in small groups led by coaches and assistants in order to solve various hypothetical issues on the moon. This class adopted a fun and exciting tool to keep students engaged every Sunday morning: a box of brightly colored LEGOs. In order to participate, no prior knowledge or technical skills were required -- students simply needed a passion for teamwork and imagination... and ours did!

The robotics program encouraged students to become curious about technology and life on the moon. They documented their process through an illustrative Show Me Poster. After eight weeks of research, hands-on projects, coding, and pure imagination, the students and their coaches were prepared to share their findings at the FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. Expo (FLL), held at Mineola High School.

The Expo featured teams from all over the region; students from different faiths, backgrounds, and communities, came together to celebrate their love for robotics and Science, Technology, Engineering Mathematics (STEM). At the Expo, students participated in skill-building activities, reminding them that teamwork creates a strong foundation for success. The students then presented their projects to the judges and talked about their problem, solution, and their overall process.

Each student received a certificate of participation, along with a LEGO medal, one that they can assemble themselves. Every student that participated left the Expo with a glowing smile on their faces -- they developed a passion for STEM, and realized that they are capable of anything.

Robotics coach Kiran Bhimani learned to code for the first time when she was 18, and was astonished to see her students programming so easily. Kiran was eager to teach students about technology and STEM, but explained her main reason for volunteering with this program: “There is a dire need for more women in tech. I saw this camp as a platform to make a small difference by hopefully inspiring some of the younger girls to pursue the field in their later years.” By the end of the session, many of the young girls left the program with a desire for careers in STEM, just as Kiran had hoped.

Eight-year-old Zia Jiwani talked about her experience participating in this unique program. Although she learned many things, like teamwork, she said the “most important thing that I learned was to work together and to at least try before you feel negative about yourself.” She fell in love with robotics and was inspired by this eight-week program to expand her knowledge on this subject. While many students felt nervous about participating in something as challenging and stimulating as robotics, others were ready to pick up the LEGO pieces, and build machines they never knew they could make.

FLL Jr. has six main core values, which students were expected to keep in mind throughout the session: Discovery, Innovation, Impact, Inclusion, Teamwork, and Fun. Each of these values helps train participants to become ambassadors in their communities and pushes them to use their intellect in a meaningful manner. At the same time, students are learning to articulate ideas and concepts that many their age are not yet familiar with. The robotics program has invited the youth of the New York Jamat to use this experience as a tool to shape their academic futures and contribute purposefully to their community, which is a reflection of one of our many ethics of Islam.