Beginning in 2002 to generate interest in technology education, the Chattanooga Engineers Club helped four local teams participate in the newly formed FIRST Lego League. Sponsored by the national organization usfirst.org, the FIRST Lego League used the Lego RCX robot, a national challenge, and concepts developed by the FIRST Robotic Challenge (started several years earlier to address high school students) to introduce robotics, teamwork and “gracious professionalism” to the 9 to 14 year age range.
Since 2002, the Chattanooga Engineers Club program has expended to include 11 FIRST Lego League teams (elementary and middle school), 2 FIRST Tech Challenge teams (high school), 2 weeks of summer “camp” at Chattanooga State Technical Community College (middle and high school), 2 Funday events and a week of specialized home school programs at the Creative Discovery Museum, and special projects with community organizations (like Girls Inc.) through the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Schools of Engineering and Computer Science.
Each year the programs touch more than 250 students, now comparable to the Regional Science Fair, created by the same Chattanooga Engineers Club fifty-seven years ago.
Over the years, as the program has expended, other local organizations and technology firms have contributed to the annual costs, which are now about $10,000. The organizations include the Benwood and Community Foundations which have helped start up new elements as the program has expanded, relying on regular to continue the programs, once started.
In addition the following firms have assisted the CEC in maintaining the programs:
- ALSTOM Turbines and ALSTOM Power
- Associated General Contractors
- Astec Industries
- Coca Cola Bottling
- Electric Power Board
- eSpin Technology
- Tennessee Valley Authority
- WRCB-TV and DT, Channel 3
The Following Organizations have contributed to equipment purchases, or in-kind contributions, such as hosting the Chattanooga “local event” for FLL teams.:
- Chattanooga State Technical Community College
- Siskin Childrens Institute
- Tennessee Aquarium
- UTC, Challenger Center
- UTC, Advanced Transportation Institute
- UTC, College of Engineering and Computer Science
- UTC, Sim-Center, Computational Engineering