Nova Labs Robotics emerged out of a partnership between Herndon Robotics—an all-volunteer, robotics program launched by Tom Welsh in 2009—and Nova Labs, a community based Makerspace created to empower everyone to rediscover the joy of making things. By providing the space, resources and mentorship for innovation and creation, Nova Labs creates a model for disrupting STEM education to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, technologists, and entrepreneurs.
In 2012, Herndon Robotics grew to forty young makers, running its FIRST Lego League (FLL) program in borrowed corporate office space. FIRST programs—which comprise four divisions: Junior FIRST Lego League (Jr. FLL), for grades K-3; FIRST Lego League (FLL) for grades 4-8; FIRST Technology Challenge (FTC) for grades 7-12, and FIRST Robotics Competition, for grades 9 -12 —are widely viewed as some of the most effective systems for deepening STEM education and advancing kids’ interest in STEM careers.
In 2013, Nova Labs Robotics expanded again to more than sixty young makers on seven robotics teams (two Jr. FLL, four FLL teams, and a rookie FTC team). To support this growth, Herndon Robotics joined forces with Nova Labs and are now known as Nova Labs Robotics. The Nova Labs makerspace serves as a hub for technology experts who mentor the robotics teams in advanced skills such as 3D printing, laser cutting, design, programming, Computer Numerical Control parts fabrication, and useful skills.
We are keeping makers engaged from Junior FLL up to high school with older makers mentoring younger ones. The program advances each year to keep teaching new skills.
In 2014, thanks to increased demand and the new alliance with Nova Labs, the scale of operations for Nova Labs Robotics has expanded dramatically. One hundred makers, ages 6-16, now participate in the program and have registered 13 teams: seven FIRST Lego League (FLL) teams, three FIRST Tech Challenge teams, and three Junior FIRST Lego League teams. Students from the nationally recognized Herndon High School FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team mentor the Nova Labs Robotics teams. Despite this growth, Nova Labs Robotics remains an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit with no paid employees. We rely heavily on parent and community involvement. Parents with a variety of skills are key to the success. FIRST is more than just engineering – it is solving real-world problems and collaborative leadership.