Robots, Fosters and Our Trip to the South…
Team Fusion Members and their Robot – competitors at the Western Regional Robot Competition
By Jamie Lee Evans
This past weekend I went to a regional competition of youth robot makers. The youth ranged in age from 12 years old to high school seniors and designed, built and programmed little robots to do specific tasks in a tournament. I am not a robot maker, and while I was impressed by creation of essentially computer machines from parts that could handle tasks with and without being “driven” (tasks included picking up blocks, climbing metal hills and suspending from bars)–what really got me were the hundreds of parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, friends and neighbors who came from as far as Montana to cheer on the young robot creators. I had the opportunity to talk to moms and dads who were there supporting their kids. I watched siblings climb bleachers to watch the robots battle it out. And most exciting was the chance I had to speak with the young robot team members themselves. These youth were deeply impressive. They told me all about how they shared leadership on their teams, what their design process was like, how they fundraised, governed, recruited, and elevated less experienced, but nonetheless, interested youth. They had journals detailing their team’s work; poster presentations of their mission statements and connection to community; and shout outs to their mentors, funders and supporters.
The youth were bright, articulate and eager to talk. I was blown away by their ability to
reflect about ego-less co-design; the importance of parent allies, mentors and coaches; and how the experience of the robot competition has enhanced their success in school and sense of self. Whenever I attend events where I witness youth achieving success, I am acutely aware of what it takes for their accomplishments…and it always
involves family and other support. This was no different.
As Ricardo, Miguel, Bethanea, Kevin, Jeanie, Ray and I begin our journey to
Arkansas to set up and show Foster Youth Museum’s Lost Childhoods exhibition, I
am mindful of how foster youth leaders make community, create a sense of family and gather allies. We are a multi-cultural and diverse crew, ages 20 to 51, queer, straight, foster, adopted, non-foster, urban, rural. And we belong together. Our youth team has made sacrifices to spend eight days on this journey. They have done homework in advance, given up shifts in their regular jobs and solicited support from their supporters and friends to get them to airports, pack and otherwise prepare for this trip. We are each committed to telling the stories of foster youth, and portraying those stories with dignity, respect and honor.
We aren’t traveling with parents, neighbors and friends but we will be received
by people who are glad we are coming…who invited us with excitement and have been looking forward to our arrival for months. For fosters, this is a not exactly a normal thing, and boy is it welcome! We are traveling seven deep, have the heart of our foster sisters and brothers with us, and like the young robot makers, we have the leadership, vibrance and energy of our smart youth docent team. The FYM Team probably includes a youth who could build a robot from scratch, but especially includes the most resilient and gifted storytellers. There won’t be bleachers set up to watch our success in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but there will be crowds that gather over our three day show and folks that come just to hear the young people talk about what life is like for the hundreds of thousands of young people in care in the United States. We will join together with former foster youth from Arkansas who will bring items for a Pop Up Museum on foster youth lives and I am especially looking forward to discovering our differences and similarities.
Ever since we booked this show, people said to me, why the South for your first big out of state show? I said, why not?
We look forward to what we can bring to Arkansas and are eager to take in what Arkansas will bring to us.
Foster Youth Museum staff (Jamie and Jeanie) midway to Arkansas with Ricardo, Kevin, Bethanea and Miguel (Ray our amazing curator, will meet us in Oklahoma)…