Like many Hall of Fame teams, YETI aspires to consistently deliver Chairman’s worthy performances. Our mission of sharing the win includes bridging the gap between the empowered and the powerless. We champion our cause to bring unique and tailored STEM experiences to youth across borders and barriers. As Charlotte’s (CLT) inaugural FRC team, we empower the academically left-behind and neglected groups i.e. girls, refugees, homeless, impoverished, ESL students, and most recently, thousands of students from India.
YETI’s initiative to inspire and welcome people across borders is fondly referred to as Going Global Local. Many refugee students hesitate to actively engage in traditional classroom settings due to the culture shock, economic situation and the language barrier. Since 2015, we have worked with Project 658, a local refugee support organization. We hosted STEM summer camps, ran a winter clothing drive, and built an irrigation system to grow produce for The Diner at Proj. 658. This year, we started teaching STEM enrichment classes every other week using Code.org for 3-5th grade and Maker Camp activities for K-2nd grade. Our continued efforts with Proj. 658, were noticed by the Comp-Sci Teachers Assoc. and Code.org who recently awarded us the Champions of Computer Science for Broadening Participation Award.
YETI addresses the absence of female presence by encouraging girls to overcome gender bias and strive for their passions by seizing opportunities. Our first year, YETI was 97% male, so we created and maintain the Pink Pipeline, a series of all-girl Jr. FLL, FLL, and FTC teams designed to involve girls in engineering by providing a streamlined, enriching pathway to pursue STEM in higher education and beyond. Our Pink Pipeline consistently provides young women with a solid base of engineering skills. The Pink Pipeline’s success increased the female YETI population by 700%, attracting the attention of Ashley Maria, director of Pioneers in Skirts, a recently released documentary. Pioneers in Skirts focuses on our former team captains’ journeys as women in STEM and the struggles women face when entering the workforce.
To further overcome the gender barrier, this year, YETI partnered with the Girl Scouts of America at a regional level. We hosted EV3 workshops for 200 girls, teaching them to build and program EV3 robots in order to earn their Robotics badges. We were asked to extend our Pink Pipeline and form several FLL and FTC teams for the CLT Mecklenburg Girl Scouts chapter.
Expanding on the YETI Global initiative, our co-captain created PREPARE, a 501(c)3 that focuses on providing public school students in rural Indian villages access to quality STEM education. In India, only the poorest attend public schools which lack funds to provide adequate pre-college STEM education. When these kids attend college with private-schooled peers, they fall behind due to technological disadvantages. In a country that produces more graduates with STEM majors than STEM jobs, class rank is vital to getting a job. PREPARE, as the name suggests, better prepares these public schoolers to compete with their private school peers in college. PREPARE trains and hires teachers to teach a carefully curated 4-year STEM curriculum developed by YETI students and has provided over $60,000 worth of salaries and materials (like laptops, KNEX kits, and EV3 sets) with the help of YETI. Over the last 2 years, PREPARE has inducted 7 schools totaling 2,810 students. This year, the Government of Andhra Pradesh, India agreed to provide 70% of the costs and requested the induction of 1,300 schools. The self-sustaining nature of this program will allow nearly 100 new schools to be inducted by the end of this year. Through PREPARE, YETI wishes to break the rampant cycle of poverty in these farming villages where the public education system fails to teach 21st-century skills vital to present-day employability.
YETI is committed to helping underserved groups like ESL (English as a Second Language) students. Our meetings with several ESL coordinators revealed that for ESL students, the language barrier inevitably translates into an educational barrier. They often hesitate to ask for clarification in normal classroom settings with native English speakers for fear of ridicule. In an effort to simplify course load, these students are discouraged by counselors and teachers from taking honors and college-level classes, especially in STEM. While understanding concepts is well within their mental capabilities, they often need one on one instruction or a more tactile/visual teaching method to gain mastery. YETI students work closely with the staff at these schools to create an environment that introduces ESL students to the fun of Computer Science. Our students collaborated with STEM teachers to tailor a custom curriculum relying heavily on tactile/visual rather than verbal instruction. These students will be less hesitant to take STEM courses and extracurriculars in the future.
A Child's Place
It is imperative for children to have their physiological needs met before they can focus on learning. NC public schools reported that nearly 30,000 students are recognized as homeless under the McKinney Vento Act. YETI contacted local grocery stores and hosted donation drives for hygiene products to provide these students with some of their basic needs. We also partnered with A Child’s Place to initiate the Bag4Bag program. When a customer purchases a YETI drawstring bag on our online store, we donate a bag of hygiene products to homeless students at the Governor’s Village STEM Academy. With their physiological needs met, students will be much more engaged during the STEM programs we will implement in the fall. YETI’s goal is to see disadvantaged students pursue STEM careers and break the poverty cycle.
FIRST teams are like family for YETI and we realize that sustainability is an important challenge. YETI rises to this challenge by nurturing our teams every step of the way. Last year we started team 6894, Iced Java, and along with mentoring them, we also shared our knowledge and workspace in hopes that they would emulate us. Given our history of helping teams and our recently released informational YouTube series, YETI Tips, that supports and guides new FRC teams to a sustainable future, YETI was selected for the TEAMS Grant to mentor FRC team 7815. To date, we have spent $100,000+ helping other FIRST teams cover registration expenses, food at competitions, rent expenses, and by hosting off-season and official tournaments for FIRST teams of all levels.