Four California FIRST teams -Team Spyder 1622, MSET Fish 649, MSET Cuttlefish 6165, and Eagle Engineering 1138 – traveled to Washington, DC where they joined more robotics students from across the nation to advocate for increased federal STEM funding during the 9th annual National Advocacy Conference (NAC) June 26th – June 28th.
The conference, presented by the Student Association for STEM Advocacy, helps develop student advocates to expand access to STEM opportunities. SASA founder and president, Frank Ferrari, had this to say about the conference: “The impact these students have on shaping our future is real! The relationships the teams develop impacts how our elected officials vote on important STEM issues as we attempt to make STEM accessible to everyone!”
Students and Mentors were prepared for meetings with their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill with:
- a walk through of the basics of advocacy while focusing on how to build and leverage relationships with elected officials to advance STEM programs
- hands-on and practical introduction on what skills are needed to be an effective advocate for STEM at the local, state, and federal levels.
- education about ESSA and Title IV-A, and USICA
- coaching and live role plays to help them talk to their Members of Congress
- time to get together in advocacy groups, by state, to practice speaking to Senator’s and Congress representatives.
By the end of the conference, our California FIRST teams were ready to put their practice into action and had meetings with the following Senators and Representatives:
- United States Senator Alex Padilla – California
- United States Senator Dianne Feinstein – California
- United States Representative Sara Jacobs, 53rd District – California
- United States Representative Darrell Issa, 50th District – California
- United States Representative Mike Levin, 49th District – California
During their meetings with these Congress Members and their staff, teams urged lawmakers to increase funding for grants used for STEM engagement activities, including raising funding for grants in Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the authorized level of $1.6 billion and supporting the NSF grants in the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).
Team Spyder member, Brendan Aeria said, “Participating in the National Advocacy Conference has made a huge impact on me, because it has taught me a lot that I would have never known about our government, and how I can be active and push for policies that I believe in, such as robotics funding. I gained a lot of confidence in my everyday conversations and especially with future public speaking by advocating to elected officials and their staff.
By the end of the conference, team members gained valuable real-life skills and saw first-hand how advocating as a group can create great impact.
Robotics California Advocacy Coalition begins.
On July 20, 2022, California robotics teams that attended the NAC 2022 gathered together via Zoom across the state to organize unified robotics and STEAM advocacy efforts with MSET Fish and Team Spyder leading the way with five founding members of this coalition, namely FRC 649, FRC/VEX 1138, FRC/FTC 1622, FRC 6165 & FTC 12675.
They will be working with local and California government through policy legislation, to influence, and advocate to legislature in the state Senate and Assembly. If you are interested in becoming a part of the Robotics California Advocacy Coalition and upcoming events, indicate your interest via their sign up form.