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Highland Springs employee encourages the power of science and math
By Jeff Getek
DALLAS, TX -- When Mary Gorton, the senior sales associate at Highland Springs retirement community, visited her grandson in Virginia in 2011, she was amazed.
“He was building robots and solving complex problems with his classmates,” recalled Mrs. Gorton of her then 11-year-old grandson, Sean Bianchi.
They were involved with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST LL), a worldwide program for 9- to 16-year-olds designed to get children excited about science and technology--and teach them valuable employment and life skills.
Teams of students program an autonomous robot (using the LEGO MINDSTORMS robot set) to score points on a thematic playing surface, identifying a problem and subsequent innovative solutions. They compete versus their peers at the state, regional and national levels.
With a career in the senior living industry, Mrs. Gorton felt she had insight for the team, particularly as the theme for the 2012 season was Senior Solutions: Independent. Engaged. Connected.
By phone, she became the senior partner for her grandson’s seven-student team of sixth-graders, leading sessions on life challenges facing some seniors such as mobility and isolation.
The team from Blacksburg selected combating loneliness as their project objective. Mrs. Gorton provided valuable contacts, connecting the team to a gerontologist from the University of North Texas. Her son-in law, who coached the team, arranged for a professor of robotics from Virginia Tech to work with the youngsters.
“It encouraged me to see the students’ evolution in researching topics that they had never previously considered,” stated Mrs. Gorton. “A core value of the competition is enhancing gracious professionalism, and the group certainly reflected that in their interaction with older adults and one another.”
A few months later, the Save Our Seniors team earned a top-two finish at FIRST LL regional competition in Abingdon, VA in November and qualified for the VA/DC competition at James Madison University in December, where they received an honorable mention.
“Being a part of this intergenerational program was an exceptional experience for me,” noted Mrs. Gorton, a resident of Gainesville. “Whether in Texas or Virginia, science and math continue to be the pathways to success and the careers of the future. Working with these champions convinced me that the future of our world is in good hands.”
For more information on the program, please visit www.firstlegoleague.org.
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