Grant-Powered Partnership Sparks STEM Excitement in Central Oregon Youth

ESSER III funding for “teach the teachers” program enables Camp Fire Central Oregon to improve access to high-quality robotics enrichment, education and fun! 

Camp Fire Central Oregon brings robotics education and STEM enrichment to youth and educators in culturally specific areas of Central Oregon, empowering them with lifelong skills. The kids love the learning and LEGO® equipment!

Bend, Ore. March 4, 2024 – Robotics is reaching more kids and teachers in Central Oregon who might not otherwise have a chance to explore it, thanks to a grant that’s created a new partnership between Camp Fire Central Oregon and an afterschool program in Jefferson County. The ESSER III match of $58,647 expands current grant funds from the Central Oregon Health Council already supporting Camp Fire Central Oregon’s robotics offerings, specifically through a “train the trainers” program that doesn’t just expose youth to robotics but simultaneously empowers their educators to teach it as well.

The partnership program is designed to make robotics education more accessible to three culturally specific communities. Right now, inclusive youth development organization Camp Fire Central Oregon is partnering with educators at the 21st Century Community Learning Centers in Warm Springs and Madras. It’s meeting for 10 to 15 hours during five-week sessions, with a combined seven teachers and 26 afterschool students. The grant will allow for a third session in a Latina/o/x community at Samara Learning Center in Bend, its date and time are yet to be determined. 

Logan Betts, Camp Fire Central Oregon’s STEM Program Coordinator, instructs students and teachers in Madras on grant-supported robotics.

“It’s so inspiring to witness how the kids are quickly thriving in robotics, thanks to this grant-funded opportunity,” says Logan Betts, Camp Fire Central Oregon’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Coordinator. “Their high level of focus and engagement around coding, programming and building robots, then tackling STEM challenges is exciting, particularly in terms of grasping the concepts and building confidence. It’s also amazing to watch the teachers learn alongside the kids while also coaching them. They’re very invested because soon they’ll be using the grant-funded robotics materials, curriculum and new skills to build out their own youth robotics programs.”

Shadany Sanchez-Felix is one of several teachers paired up with youth in the afterschool program at Madras’ Bridges High School. She and other teachers work with the kids in small groups under Betts’ guidance. Sanchez-Felix says that since the start of the program, she’s witnessed students go from being hesitant about robotics and what it entails to full-on embracing this enriching, educational opportunity.

Shadany Sanchez-Felix strategizes with her second-grade student, Alistair Wainanawit, on how to reprogram a robot to turn a 90-degree angle around a chair.

“Not a lot of our kids have a knowledge of what STEM really is and might think it is boring at first,” she says. “But then they come to this class and find it so fun and engaging. They are learning math and science without even realizing it because the challenges are exciting. Also, in working together, the kids are collaborating, being creative, problem-solving and building confidence. This is so great because STEM is very important in our world, and these kids need hands-on experience with it.”

The kids couldn’t be more thrilled, including some of the youngest, such as second-grader Alistair Wainanawit, who is in Sanchez-Felix’s group. Not only does he love making robots perform various movements with coding and programming, but he already sees how what he’s learning might matter in life and even in a future career.

“I think robotics is important because if you want to be an engineer or something when you grow up, you know what motors to use to make the robots,” he says. “When I grow up, I might want to be a cop…and robotics might help me in my job.”

No question about it, robots already play a role in the field of law enforcement and security—Wainanawit is fast connecting the dots just weeks after starting this program! And, he also loves that he gets to work with brand-new, in-tact LEGO® robotics kits versus the old robotics kits the program has managed with in the past and that happen to be missing pieces and parts.

“It’s fascinating to see the kids have this seedling of an idea or exposure to STEM, then quickly accelerate their understanding of the relevance of robotics today because of the quality and impact behind this new partnership program,” Betts says. “With the right equipment, resources and coaching, this is just one of many positive outcomes we’re seeing already. Camp Fire Central Oregon is so grateful to our partners, the teachers, the kids and, of course, the grant that’s making it all possible. It’s like a gift that will keep on giving.”

Click here for additional media assets, including photos and video.


Logan Betts, STEM Program Coordinator | Camp Fire Central Oregon; (541) 205-9203


Katie Roberts, Marketing Coordinator | Camp Fire Central Oregon; (541) 299-2812

About Camp Fire Central Oregon

Founded in 1910, Camp Fire is a national organization that actively engages youth and teens in building essential skills for life. Camp Fire Central Oregon has been a local leader in youth development since 1916. The organization provides out-of-school time, teen service and leadership, camp and environmental programs. Young people want to shape the world. Camp Fire provides the opportunity to help them find their spark, lift their voice, and discover who they are.