FIRST® Announces 2018 STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant Winners

Twelve Communities Receive Grants to Provide Hands-on Learning and Problem-Solving Opportunities to Underserved and Underrepresented Students

MANCHESTER, N.H.--()--FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) today announced 12 grants to address inequities in access to science and technology. The grants will support communities with underserved and underrepresented students and help them develop new, innovative approaches to tackle the education gap.

FIRST launched its STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants program in 2016 to provide diverse and disadvantaged students and communities with hands-on learning opportunities and outlets for creative problem solving. Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000, with an average of $35,000, and evaluation criteria include community need, demographics, increases in diversity, execution strength, track record of reaching targeted students and the value of the activities proposed. To date, FIRST has awarded nearly $1.2 million to more than 38 communities across the United States and Canada.

“Access to STEM education, mentorship and learning resources has powerful implications for a student’s future, but too many young people lack these valuable tools,” said Donald E. Bossi, president of FIRST. “With these resources, we hope more educators and community leaders are able to galvanize students of all backgrounds to aspire for more and reach their full potentials.”

FIRST Equity, Diversity and Inclusion sponsors include Apple, Arconic Foundation, Qualcomm Incorporated, Bosch, Caterpillar, Cisco, Cognizant, The Dow Chemical Company, Fidelity Charitable, GM, GitHub, John Deere, Verizon, and individual donors, among others. Grantees will receive resources and support from FIRST as they develop their programs.

The 2018 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant award winners include:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Georgia (Rome, Georgia): The organization will expand its robotics program to three area youth clubs. By serving an additional 260 underserved and underrepresented students, it will offer greater exposure and more participation of STEM activities and hands-on training.
  • Brooklyn Public Library (Brooklyn, New York): Brooklyn Public Library will increase the reach of its Brooklyn Robotics League from 59 to 188 teams, serving 472 area youth. Teens and children will learn to build, code and program robots while also developing conflict resolution, strategic planning and teamwork skills.
  • Detroit Police Athletic League (Detroit, Michigan): The organization plans to expand its FIRST® LEGO® League and FIRST® Tech Challenge programs to give more Detroit youth the opportunity to gain STEM training. The 10 new teams across both programs will reach 250 students.
  • East Harlem Tutorial Program (East Harlem, New York): A coalition between the East Harlem Tutorial Program and the East Harlem Scholar Academies will create three FIRST LEGO League teams of 30 students to help develop essential skills such as mechanical and electrical engineering, pneumatics systems and Java programming.
  • Father Maloney's Boys and Girls Haven, Inc. (Louisville, Kentucky): Father Maloney’s Boys and Girls Haven is a residential program providing a home and future to many of Kentucky's most vulnerable young people. The program will grow its STEM initiative to include four additional FIRST Tech Challenge teams and a new FIRST® Robotics Competition team.
  • Knowledge is Power Program – KIPP NYC (New York, New York): By creating FIRST LEGO League teams in six elementary schools and six middle schools, KIPP NYC will help close the achievement gap for approximately 122 students in low-income communities.
  • Milwaukee Public Schools (Milwaukee, Wisconsin): The Milwaukee Public Schools will create 10 FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. teams at seven schools and seven FIRST LEGO League teams at eight schools, serving nearly 500 students.
  • Public Schools of Robeson County (Lumberton, North Carolina): The 1-2-3-Full STEAM Ahead initiative will create 216 FIRST LEGO League teams as part of the system’s in-classroom curriculum, reaching more than 1,200 students.
  • Special Olympics (Seattle, Washington): The organization will engage 30 teams within its Unified Robotics program. This first-of-its-kind program brings the sport of robotics to 60 high school students with and without intellectual disabilities, uniting them as teammates and competitors on the field of play.
  • St. Martin Parish (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana): St. Martin Parish will help create FIRST LEGO League and FIRST LEGO League Jr. teams for predominately African American and socioeconomically challenged students from three schools.
  • Young Women's Leadership Network (New York, New York): This network will establish FIRST Robotics Competition teams at five schools and boost its STEM programming to serve 1,085 young women in grades 6-8.
  • YouthLink (Seneca, South Carolina): YouthLink STEM Academy will create additional FIRST LEGO League and FIRST LEGO League Jr. teams, reaching more than 1,100 underserved and underrepresented area students.

The 2019 FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant application process will open in the fall of this year, and grants will be awarded to a mix of current and new recipients. More information will become available at

About FIRST®
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $80 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition for students in Grades 9-12; FIRST® Tech Challenge for Grades 7-12; FIRST®LEGO® League for Grades 4-8; and FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. for Grades K-4. Gracious Professionalism® is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to


Brooke Blew, 603-206-2048

Release Summary

FIRST today announced 12 STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant winners to address inequities in access to hands-on learning opportunities in STEM.


Brooke Blew, 603-206-2048