Introduction to GISE and GEMS

Introduction to GISE and GEMS

GEMS and GISE are extracurricular programs designed specifically for girls and boys grades 4th – 8th. The program is for students who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math using team-based, hands-on projects. Teams have one or two practices per week (from 2 – 4 hours total per week) and up to three Saturday tournaments in January and February.  Students are also required to do homework to develop a presentation on a particular STEM problem (which changes every year), including research, interviews and “engineering design”.   Meetings are held at the school or in coach’s home, if a team is parent-coached. Students that have meetings in a coach’s home will be allowed to change their bus schedule to be picked up at that home (if the meeting is before school) or get dropped off there (if the meeting is after school).

The GISE and GEMS program is made up of 2 “semesters”.  The first semester is FIRST Lego League  (FLL), Robotics and Research, running from late September to late January. The second semester has a different engineering mission each year and runs from late February or early March to May.

1st Semester: FIRST Lego League (FLL)

FLL is a competitive educational program that combines robot building, computer programming, research learning and presenting about science, technology, engineering and math. As part of the challenge, kids work in teams to build and program Lego Mindstorms robots that will perform a variety of assigned tasks. Each team also researches a topic centered on the year’s theme, designs an invention or other solution and creates a presentation about their project. The teams participate at area tournaments where they present their research to judges and compete with their robots in timed runs.

At the tournament teams are judged in 4 areas:

1)             Research on their project and design of an "Innovative Solution" (detailed conceptual design only, physical rendition is not necessary);

2)             Technical Building and Programming of the Lego NXT ‘robot’

3)             How well the ‘robot’ completes any (or all) of the 8 to 10 ‘missions’ at the tournament

4)             Teamwork and respect for each other or “Core Values”

A bit more about the Research and Innovative Solution Project: The Project includes research about the the year’s theme, identifying a specific problem with your team, researching what is being done and by whom and then proposing and designing a solution to that problem. Students compile all of their work into a five-minute presentation that they give to judges at the competition.

A bit more about the Robotics:  FLL provides a document of “missions” in which a student designed and programmed robot is required to perform specific tasks on a table of objects i.e. their robot may have to get an object from a position on the table and return it to “base”. Teams get points based on the number of missions they complete. 

The FLL website is a great reference when you have questions. The judging rubrics and the Complete Challenge Guide are good references as well.

Note that in-school meetings are best spent on the robotics portion, since this can’t be done at home and the kids really like it - so the research portion is best managed as homework assignments and additional parent volunteer-led meetings.  Families and volunteers will need to help the students, particularly the younger students, and his/her team complete the 'Project' portion outside of the GEMS/GISE class. 

GISE and GEMS was previously 100% teacher run; however due to the growing popularity of the program at LHCS, some teams are coached by parent volunteer coaches. The number of teams LHCS can field depends on the number of kids, teacher coach availability and parent volunteers. The program works hard to limit team sizes to between 4 and 6 students.

Thanks to the Minneapolis Public School District and the LHCS PTA, which provides a significant amount of funding for the program, the cost to participate is kept low ($50 per participant, with PTA scholarships available).

2nd Semester: Engineering

From February through May, GEMS/GISE/STEM students will have an opportunity to explore Engineering Design Principals while they construct and use engineering equipment and components.  There is a 3-year rotation of rockets, dragster (carbon dioxide or other powered) cars or electrical circuitry.  Each of these units end with a tournament where the students can showcase their work. For example: During the Dragster Year, GEMS/GISE/STEM students have an opportunity to explore Engineering Design, Newton’s Laws of Motion, acceleration, various propulsion systems, scaled drawing, prototyping, and testing while developing solutions to several design challenges.  Activities introduce design, science, and mathematics principles and include experiences utilizing balloon, battery, rubber band, and solar powered racers. The culminating experience is the CO2 Dragster Tournament where students test their dragster designs, race against the clock, and other dragsters on an official CO2 dragster track. The other engineering tracks will have a similar culminating experience.