Last Thursday marked the completion of the first season of The Capital Lego Robot Club. Lisa, my spouse and occasional business partner, and I had tentatively decided to take the after-school-robot concept and expand it to more school districts, but we were also waiting for more formal feedback before emotionally committing ourselves. The feedback was great.
This first season, in reality, was a proof-of-concept for the after-school-program. The curriculum was pretty ad-hoc and we definitely didn’t start the season with any grand plans. My main goal was to avoid wasting the kids’ time and avoid wasting the parents’ money. As the season went on for what seemed like a very long time, but in hindsight was only eight classes, Lisa and I realized that we had unwittingly stumbled upon a real unmet need, and that we really enjoyed working on it. I love building stuff and working with kids. We both love scheming about how to make operations scale (we’re business nerds). She is a world-class project manager with a side passion for education. I like dreaming big. We both had been searching for an impactful cause that we could get behind. Thus, we seemed to have found our endeavor.
We finished the last class with snacks, awesome home-made rice-crispy treats made to look like Lego bricks, and with the kids showing off their finished creations. They kids had broken into small teams, each of which made some extreme transportation related vehicle. For example, one team made the longest motor-powered vehicle they could. Another team made the fastest vehicle they could. One made a vehicle that looked the most bird-like. All made something great. We wrapped up with a massive clean-up party.
At the end of the class, we collected feedback from well over half of the parents – basically we cornered everyone who showed up on the last night with a short questionnaire. I was a bit nervous to read the feedback. Although we had already received good feedback from several parents – with a lot of “thank-you for setting this up,” we hadn’t yet gathering any formal assessment data. We also know that anonymous feedback can be harsher than more casual in-person comments.
Happily, the feedback was all quite positive. The criticisms were all things that we had already thought about, and had already started working on, but it was still good to hear them confirmed. One person suggested communicating more with parents about each week’s activities so that they could help kids at home. Many people commented upon the need to segregate the age groups more (we went from K – 3rd grade). Some people want a more structured class, others wanted more free-time. Everybody indicated that they intended to participate again next year. We were very pleased!
So, much of this summer’s free moments will be spent laying groundwork for next fall and for the next five years. We have a vision to give the kids throughout the country an early introduction to engineering. We’re setting a goal for ourselves of having deep nation-wide penetration within five years for K-6. A tough, but achievable, goal. It was really exciting to finish the first season and I can’t wait to get started on the next five years.