Mill Creek, WA. January 24, 2024 — The Mill Creek Family YMCA now has its own robotics team, STEMania, that competes in local FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) competitions against local schools. The unique feature of the Y’s STEMania is that team members aren’t bound by the school they attend, so they can participate for years, learning new skills and growing relationships.
“We’ve had tremendous interest in the STEMania team, with over 30 kids registered for the first season,” said Ethan Harrington, Teen Director, Mill Creek Family YMCA. “This was the first time we competed, so we didn’t qualify for the next round, but the foundation was built and we’re meeting through the winter and spring to practice and prepare for Fall 2024 competition.”
When Harrington first started at the Y in 2021, he was involved with the eSports program. One of the eSports sponsors, Fully Loaded Electronics, connected the Y with members of the Henry M. Jackson High School’s robotics team, which has had success on the national level, and helped get the Y’s team off the ground.
“Once we learned about all the interest, we formed STEMania,” said Harrington. “The long-term goal is to have our robotics program span from Grades 4 – 12. No one locally offers the ability to stick together with your team for many years.”
The team is focused on FLL in its first season, but as it grows, it hopes to also offer the opportunity to compete in FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST® Robotics Challenge (FRC) which are geared towards older students. STEMania team members learn how to build and code robots to complete certain tasks, but there are also other essential skills they learn, including teamwork, sportsmanship, and “gracious professionalism” (the ability to compete with kindness and a good attitude.)
“It is so rewarding to see the kids get into the LEGO® kits and create a robot to complete a bunch of challenges – something I know nothing about,” said Harrington. “Seeing them work together, learn from peers from other schools, as well as high school mentors and leaders on the team, is what it’s all about.”
Harrington encourages anyone with an interest in robotics to come and check out STEMania. The team is meeting through June to practice, improve their skills, and compete in scrimmages, while still having fun building.
“It’s fun; come and join us!” said Harrington. “We’re a new program, so every day is uncharted territory. Who knows what we might do or discover?”
For more information, please visit ymca-snoco.org/teens/. Registration for the spring session is open.