Team PropaGator is very active in providing Native American K-12 students opportunities to learn and become excited about S.T.E.M. through the synergy of mechanical design, electronics, and computer programming (robotics).
They currently have two sites which serve Native youth from Arizona (AZ), New Mexico (NM), and Oklahoma (OK). The first site is the Navajo Nation in AZ and NM. In 2014, one of the team members was able to visit 6 schools, perform over 30 workshops, and worked with over 1000 students from the Navajo Nation. Most recently, Team PropaGator helped found two FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics teams with the help of FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Teams 2486 and 4118. The first team is the “Arc Angels” from St. Michael Indian School in St. Michaels, AZ. The second team is, “Electro Mutton Nation” from Tsehootsooi Middle School in Ft. Defiance, AZ. In November 2014, Electro Mutton Nation competed in an FLL tournament in Winslow, AZ and won the Judges Award as well as the award for best Coaches/Mentors. Even after the competition, they still meet regularly to complete the tasks that there robot was unable to complete at the competition. This allows them to continue to learn through building and programming robots and be ready for next year’s competition. They have even started fundraising for next season by raising hundreds of dollars selling pickles after school.
At the 2014 AUVSI Foundation’s International RoboBoat Competition, the team presented their outreach with the Navajo Nation to the competition’s judges which helped inspire the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to donate five SeaPerch robot submarine kits to each team in order to aid in their outreach. This inspired the creation of a second site. One of the team members made contact with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN) in OK and helped coordinate for their students to receive these kits to help aid in the CPN’s push for S.T.E.M. education. Team PropaGator then reached out to all of the other RoboBoat teams. Team PropaGator wanted the other teams to know that if they weren’t sure what to do with their kits, there was a good home waiting for them with the tribes in OK. Georgia Tech (GT) has become a partner in this program by donating some of their kits to the tribes of OK. The goal is once the students of the CPN become proficient in assembling and using their kits, they will invite neighboring tribes to their build area. The CPN will show the students from the other tribes how to assemble the kits from GT and will then present them as a gift to their guests. In this way the S.T.E.M. outreach is further extended and positive inter-tribal relationships are formed between the students. The team would like to thank NASA astronaut Terry Hart for Skyping in to both of these communities to share his experiences and answer the students’ questions on what it is like to travel to outer space.