Youth create LEGO robots during STEM week

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Located behind the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club, a group of young Tulalip summer school students occupied one classroom in each of the three Tulalip Education Department buildings during the week of August 6– 10. Separated by age, the kids intently worked behind laptops as they constructed a series of robots, programing them to move and perform tasks. The youth had so much fun in fact, they got lost in the LEGO robotics software and forgot they were in summer school learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

After two successful years of STEM ROBOTICS week, the Tutoring and Homework Support Program of the Education Department once again reached out to Kathy Collier and her team at to bring the fun, hands-on learning experience to the students of the summer school.

“They don’t even realize they’re inventing,” says Kathy. “They are taking part in what is called upper-level critical thinking but they’re having fun. They’ve learned two different physics principals this week and had a blast with it.”

The students are split into three groups based on which grade they will be entering at the beginning of the school year; kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade and sixth through twelfth grade. The students began each day with a new science experiment and assembled their bots in the afternoon. 

“K through second graders are doing science experiments in inertia, centrifugal force, momentum, stored energy and they use the Lego WeDo Robots,” explains Kathy. “They are doing simple coding, they can actually explain to you the function of each LEGO piece, interpreting the software language at a kid level. The third through fifth grade kids are using the EV3 Robots, that’s the latest version of LEGO robots, which is actually being used at MIT. First year college students in engineering have a course where they explore all kinds of principals using the EV3 robot. It’s a very sophisticated little machine. And the sixth through twelfth are teaching their robots. They built a custom obstacle course and have to program the robots to make a decision at each turn like forward, right or left.”

Through a set of commands on their laptop, the kids are able to control their bots. While the older kids created one spider-bot that they worked with throughout the week, coding it to make directional choices, both younger groups assembled a number of robots. The youngest group built lions, monkeys and airplane robots and the third through fifth grade students invented both rolling EV3 robots as well as a dog robot. 

 “This entire week we’ve made a bunch of different little LEGO robots and took them apart because that was our practice for programing, it’s been a lot of fun,” said Alexis Bowen while putting the finishing touches on her bot.

“We learned how to build robots!” young Jala Jimenez enthusiastically expressed. “The airplane one was fun. We put the human LEGO in it and made the propeller spin. We did a lion yesterday, that was the most fun. I learned how to make it move on the computer, it was good and easy. Oh and you can record your own sounds like a roar for your lion. After the lion we built a drumming monkey and he drummed on some cups.”

Tulalip Youth Employment worker, Quintin Yon-Wagner, attended the camp to assist the team during STEM week. Quintin, who will be a freshman this year, also built a spider-bot and used it to race his fellow peers through an obstacle course comprised of text books and wastebaskets. 

“This past week has been amazing because we’ve learned so much,” states Quintin. “Starting with programming the computer and learning how the Bluetooth connects with the robots that we made out of LEGOS. The building process takes some time but the benefits that the students take away and how much you learn about programing is amazing. But this isn’t just about programming, it expands on different, new ideas like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“My favorite part has been building my robot and programming it to move its way through an obstacle course, knowing where and when to turn at the exact time and angle,” he continues. “We actually got it through a huge obstacle course and it was a huge accomplishment. I’ve made great friends and connections this week. This all can help you get different types of jobs or into a good college. Learning about STEM can ultimately lead to a new career path for your future.”

For additional details please contact the Tulalip Tutoring and Homework Support Program at (360) 716-4646.

Tulalip students engage in hands-on, experimental learning

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Excitement was hard to contain at the Greg Williams Court on the night of December 20, 2017. Though it was merely five days until Christmas, the holiday spirit appeared to take a backseat as the youth of the Tulalip community participated in a fun, educational evening at the first Family STEAM and Literacy Night, hosted by Tulalip Youth Services.

STEAM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Mathematics is similar to the popular learning curriculum, STEM, implementing the arts as an additional area of study.  Variations of the STEAM program are currently being used in schools across the nation; however, local schools such as Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary and Tulalip Heritage High School continue to follow the STEM program for the time being. By bringing the STEAM experience to Tulalip, families participated in creative, experimental activities and the kids had a blast while doing so.

“STEM was created to engage more students in learning and gaining hands-on skills,” explains, Jessica Bustad, Tulalip Youth Services Education Coordinator. “I feel that adding arts into what was originally STEM is important. Most of what we do in school and also in the workforce requires creativity. Art can be found in each of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields. In my opinion, to add it, to give it more power and recognition helps us all keep the creativity we have inside. Each child and adult learns differently and the larger variety of opportunities we offer, the better.”

The event kept the future leaders busy with several interactive activity stations such as an assembly line, where the kids took apart and reassembled ballpoint pens. Another popular activity was the cup tower station. A small group formed amongst the youth who worked together to make an extreme tower, so tall the kids were barely visible behind their structure.  Laughter and surprised expressions such as ‘woah’ and the occasional ‘wait, how’d you do that?’ were heard from the youngsters as they experimented together, eagerly bouncing from station to station. And drawing the largest crowd was a hands-on art project presented by the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett.

“Today we are creating a nature-scape,” explains Jennifer of the Creative Arts Department at the Imagine Children’s Museum. “We use recycled materials and other items found in nature to create a scene, like a diorama, found in nature and today we’re focusing on the winter season.”

The children used cotton balls and various items to construct snowy sceneries, which they viewed under a black light to give their diorama a more dramatic, chilling winter look.

The first fifty kids who arrived at the event received free beanbag chairs. The Scholastic book fair was part of the event and Youth Services gave everybody in attendance a free book.

“We want to encourage reading and learning together as a family at home,” says Jessica. “We also want to show that learning can be fun, that there’s different ways to learn and also that studying doesn’t always have to be so stressful. We have to empower our children to be explorers of their own interests. It is our duty to encourage them to find and research all of the possibilities for their future.”

The STEAM and Literacy Night was a success. Tulalip parents and kids are already inquiring about the follow-up to the action-packed, hands-on learning event, to which Youth Services promises there will many more during the new year.

For more information, please contact Youth Services at (360) 716-4909.

Tulalip students learn, discover and invent at STEM Week

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalipo News

Tulalip Summer School students spent the week of August 7-11, creating robots at Tulalip Homework Support, located behind the Boys and Girls Club. Students, kindergarten through twelfth grade, participated in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Week in which they used Legos and laptops to build and program robots.

The Summer School partnered with Matthew and Kathy Collier, founders of the website, to bring the hands-on STEM experience to the Tulalip community, teaching the youth about coding through the use of Lego Mindstorms Robots.

“We’ve been working with the Lego Mindstorms Robots for nineteen years,” Kathy explains. “We have a variety of Lego Robotics education products and software. The youngest students are using what is called WeDo Lego Robots and they are actually programming tiny little Lego critters to dance, sing, flap and do all kinds of things. We have a monkey that drums, we have a giant that lifts himself from sleeping, so through the week they do different projects. What’s wonderful about the program is they are actually coding.  The same coding a software engineer does on a big scale, on a much smaller scale. Each one of those children is building a little software program. The third through fifth graders are using what’s called the NXT Lego Mindstorms Robots and sixth grade and above are using the EV3 Lego Mindstorms.

“There are colleges such as MIT that use the Lego Mindstorm Robots to do different demonstrations. These are sophisticated robots,” she continues. “The kids are learning not only to design and build ideas, they’re learning to program. By the end of the week, all of these children will understand what many adults don’t, how to program a robot to dance, move and say things. The emphasis for STEM Week is discovery. Learn by discovery, learn by inventing, and learn engineering by doing, testing, trial and error; and we use a lot of Legos to do that.”

The kids were instantly intrigued and listened both excitedly and attentively to instructions before assembling their robots. Throughout the week, the fourth through twelfth grade students work in teams of two to fine-tune their bots. Students, sixth grade and older, are utilizing a new technology to control their machines with their minds. Without prior programing or the use of controllers, the students operate their Lego Robots by wearing a brainwave reader. The younger students spend their week creating new robots and projects each day.

“I think that robot camp is a fun place to think about robots,” states Summer School Student, Jordan Bontempo. “My favorite thing I did was playing with my robot, I like experimenting with it.”

Fellow classmate, Alo Williams added, “Its fun and I really like to learn here. I like that we get to build and program robots.”

Due to the program’s popularity and interest, the Tulalip Education Department intends to start a Lego Robotics team, comprised of teens from the community, to construct robots to perform in local competitions.

“To get these kids, especially the teenagers, to buy into this and not say ‘oh, this is boring’ is amazing. We haven’t had to push them once to participate, they want to do this,” says Homework Support Teacher Seiya Kitchens. “We’re trying to get a team together to represent Tulalip.  The kids will be able to win awards and get to travel. I think there are a lot of kids that will benefit from STEM Week. Nowadays kids use more technology, so I think a program like this will reach more kids because it’s a transition from pen and paperwork to this.”

STEM Week provides a fun foundation for the children who wish to pursue a career in any of the four fields.

“This is such a techy age, kids are exposed to so much more,” Kathy states. “If these young minds start to show a hint of potential, we can start steering them towards thoughts that inspire engineering ideas. We give them the tools and let them learn and experiment. This is not about following a set of building instructions, we are turning them loose to explore, invent and create.”

For additional details please contact the Tulalip Homework Support Program at (360) 716-4646.

Boeing Has Jobs for STEM Students

BoeingThe Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing seeks Native business to partner with and Native students who could be potential Boeing employees.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing seeks Native business to partner with and Native students who could be potential Boeing employees.

Jonathon GreyEyes has one word of advice for Native students interested in pursuing challenging, satisfying and well paid careers: STEM.

Okay, it’s really four words—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Those are the areas of study students should focus on in order to move ahead in the 21st century global workplace, GreyEyes says.

GreyEyes, a Navajo Nation citizen, is a small business liaison officer for the massive, multinational Boeing Company, the world’s leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined. Boeing also designs and manufactures rotorcraft, electronic and defense systems, missiles, satellites, launch vehicles and advanced information and communication systems. In short, the company is involved in everything that flies and/or uses technology, which is to say just about every business and employment opportunity in the global marketplace.

Grey Eyes says STEM is the smart career path for Native scholars. (courtesy Jonathon GreyEyes)
Grey Eyes says STEM is the smart career path for Native scholars. (courtesy Jonathon GreyEyes)

As a small business liaison officer, GreyEyes works to increase small and diverse business participation in support of the Boeing’s company goals and objectives. As a Native American, he tries to engage Indian country as much as possible by seeking out not only small Native-owned businesses for Boeing to partner with, but also Native students who are potential Boeing employees.

“My responsibilities primarily are to maximize opportunities for small businesses of any type to participate [in] Boeing’s activities,” GreyEyes told Indian Country Today Media Network. “Now, being Native American, I’ve tried to seek out Native American companies to participate in the different research, primarily research and development.”

Boeing and other large companies that receive government contracts actively recruit employees in the Native American community, GreyEyes said. “There’s lots of opportunity in just about any field in which somebody would want to work. For most jobs a college degree is going to be required. I think across the board—not just in the Native American community, but in any group that you want to look at. We’re seeing a decline in [students pursuing] the STEM fields…and so I would encourage students (and I’m encouraging my own children) to focus on these areas where they have an aptitude and an interest because there’s a lot of opportunity in [these] fields.”

One of the ways he seeks out both small Native-owned businesses and Native students is through the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, whose mission since 1977 has been to substantially increase American Indian and Alaska Native representation in the STEM fields—as students, professionals, mentors, and leaders, according to its website.

A young visitor to Boeing's Future of Flight tour.
A young visitor to Boeing’s Future of Flight tour.

The AISES national conference is one of the big annual events that Boeing supports every year. The company interviews and hires new employees there. “It’s very important to Boeing to give everybody an opportunity to participate with Boeing either as an employee or as a subcontractor—and, fortunately, that’s why people like me have a job maximizing opportunity!” he said. GreyEyes is a lifetime member of AISES as a Sequoyah Fellow. The program was named in memory of Sequoyah, who perfected the Cherokee alphabet and syllabary in 1821, resulting in the Cherokee Nation becoming literate in less than one year, according to the AISES website. “In this spirit, AISES Sequoyah Fellows are recognized for their commitment to AISES’s mission in STEM and to the American Indian community. They bring honor to AISES by engaging in leadership, mentorship, and other acts of service that support the students and professionals in the AISES family,” the site says.

What GreyEyes does at Boeing, essentially, is match jobs to businesses. He looks at the scope of work that the company intends to subcontract and then provides the program manager with as many opportunities and alternatives in terms of small businesses that can provide the services. “In the area of research and development it’s typically very specialized. I don’t get involved until it’s [a job] over $650,000—that’s a government threshold for requiring a subcontracting plan—so that would be a small contract and some of the large contracts would be in hundreds of millions of dollars.”

GreyEyes said he loves his job and the most exciting thing is the variety of projects the company pursues. “I always tell people I’m living in a Star Trek world. Some of the contracts that we’ve won just stagger the imagination. I’m always amazed at the types of things we research. We have thousands of investigative researchers researching anything you can imagine,” he said.

Boeing is the world's leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined. (Boeing)
Boeing is the world’s leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined. (Boeing)

One of Boeing’s recent innovations was the development of the Standoff Patient Triage Tool—an instrument Homeland Security dubbed as technology “to boldly go where no medical responder has gone before.” The wireless gizmo can detect a person’s vital signs—including whether a person is alive or dead—remotely from up to 40 feet away. The original intent was for battlefield use, but like other inventions developed for war the tool has numerous civilian applications including at fires, car crashes, mass casualties and other disasters.

Boeing has a number of programs that benefit its employees, including a program that pays employees to get graduate degrees, GreyEyes said.

There is a Native American affinity group to support the sizeable number of Native employees in the company, GreyEyes said. The group is organized regionally and nationally and is involved in all aspects including recruiting and mentoring Native students. “They might be showing them what life is like at a large corporation, helping them understand why education is so important and how it’s going to benefit them when they come to a large corporation like Boeing.

“In addition, through AISES we talk students through all stages of their education from middle school on through graduate school, and we try to get them tied in to particular people at Boeing who might be good contacts for when they’re ready to look for employment and then at events like the AISES national convention where we have several people doing active hiring and interviewing on site—members of the affinity groups are involved in all those stages, and it’s not part of their job it’s just something they do on top of it because it’s important,” GreyEyes said.

Once people are employed at Boeing, the affinity group brings everyone together to talk about what life is like there and whether any issues the affinity group should raise need to be addressed. “It’s just general support for each other,” GreyEyes said.

To view the range of job opportunities at Boeing, log onto its website at and click Careers on the menu bar.