25044557956_81f6c287e1_zOur 10th anniversary season is coming to a close. We have much to celebrate thanks to a great group of students and the support of generous individuals and local businesses! Here’s our brag list:

  • Led the state in VEX Robotics participation – District 97 has the biggest VEX Robotics program in the state. Out of 173 teams in Illinois across both high school (100) and middle school (73), participating schools had an average of 3.6 teams per school. Brooks and Julian each had 12 teams this year, or 3.3x the average!
  • Served more girls than ever – Girls now make up over 35% of our students served, up from 14% just 3 years ago. This increase is a result of greater exposure through 7th-grade Robotics class, Build Like a Girl workshops, and active recruitment.
  • Grew middle school VEX Robotics in Illinois – At the start of the 2012-13 season, we were the only middle school VEX Robotics program in Illinois. That’s when we partnered with VEX Robotics to grow middle school robotics in Illinois. Today there are 73 registered middle school VEX Robotics teams at 19 schools in Illinois.
  • Increased the competition opportunities for students – Just two years ago, 9% of our students participated in three competitions. This year 100% of our students participated in five competitions. And for the first time, there was an Illinois Middle School State Championship. This year we also taught two schools how to setup and use the VEX tournament software so they can host events that we can attend in the future.
  • Won more awards then ever – A record 12 OPEF VEX Robotics teams qualified for and competed in the Illinois Middle School State Championship this year winning nine awards—the most of any program in the state!
  • Piloted ways to serve more students in more ways – Not only do we have more competitive VEX teams than any other program in the state, we’ve worked hard to find creative ways to expose more kids to hands-on STEM enrichment. We again offered a Build Like a Girl workshop, have spring tech workshops at both middle schools and even piloted expanding team size at Julian (and found that team sizes are optimal at 4-5 kids, not 6!).

We are already starting to plan for next season when we’ll be tackling the new VEX Robotics Challenge game, Starstruck. Announcements for our 2016-17 recruitment will be posted on the OPEF VEX and the D97 middle school websites by August 29, 2016.