April 29, 2013
From March 28th-30th, Living Classrooms’ Fresh Start program participants competed in the Regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition as the Fresh T.E.C.H.s (Technology, Engineering, Carpentry and Higher Learning) Team 4242. The tournament combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. With the help of mentors from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Fresh T.E.C.H.s created their robot entry for the competition. Their robot was challenged alongside other robot entries in a series of evaluations, including the ability to throw or place a frisbee in the goal in the game of Ultimate Ascent. Under strict rules, limited resources, and time constraints, teams of students were challenged to raise funds, design a team brand, hone teamwork skills, and build and program a robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It is as close to real world engineering as a student can get. Living Classrooms’ Fresh T.E.C.H.s team not only made it to the playoffs, but was also awarded the prize for Most Creative Design. In addition, they were honored with an Outreach Award from a competitor for their ability and desire to work cohesively with other teams. Living Classrooms’ Fresh Start program is a 40-week job skills training program that serves out-of-school youth, ages 16-19, who are referred to us through the juvenile justice system. The program uses metal work and carpentry as a medium to teach reading, writing, math, history, and science. Students receive classroom instruction and one-on-one tutoring. Our students come from underserved communities affected by high poverty rates, crime, and struggling schools. These students face the challenges of being raised in low-income families, have a history of arrests and substance abuse, academically function below average, and have patterns of failure within schools and court-ordered programs. In the FIRST Robotics competition, Fresh Start students competed against teams from some of the area’s top private and public schools. The Fresh T.E.C.H.s team and Fresh Start Program was featured in The Washington Post.