Press release by Michigan City Area Schools:

MICHIGAN CITY, INDIANA (June 22, 2023) – The Cleveland-Cliffs Foundation Board of Trustees has awarded a grant to the Michigan City Area Schools Safe Harbor afterschool program to help fund its fall program, “STEM for Life: Kids Build Robots – Robots Build Adults.”

“This grant will allow Safe Harbor to start robotics teams in the fall at each of the six elementary schools that we serve,” said MCAS Safe Harbor Program Coordinator Brenda Johnstone. “The generosity of community partners such as Cleveland-Cliffs is what gives us the resources to make a positive difference in the lives of local youth now and in the future.”

Much of the grant funding will support Safe Harbor’s efforts to start FIRST Lego League (FLL) teams at Coolspring, Edgewood, Joy, Knapp, Lake Hills and Marsh elementary schools.

“As we developed our plan to expand the Safe Harbor robotics program, we leaned heavily on the results of the Indiana University STEM interest study to guide our efforts,” said Al Walus, Senior Robotics Mentor.

“A majority of the nearly 8,000 participants in the IU study indicated that something sparked their interest in STEM fields prior to entering sixth grade. That finding has led to our initial focus to reconstitute and significantly expand our robotics programming for elementary students. Next, we plan to add middle school robotics programming to maintain and deepen student interest as students progress to our existing high school robotics programs.”

The Cleveland-Cliffs Foundation grant program invests in local communities where Cleveland-Cliffs has operations with a focus on supporting education, improving the environment, and supporting healthy and vibrant communities.

Julie Kreighbaum, the Safe Harbor STEM/Robotics Coordinator, is already planning to leverage the Cleveland-Cliffs grant to create more FLL teams. She said, “If we can raise some additional funds, our goal is start two FLL teams at each of our six elementary school sites, with one team at each site being dedicated as an all-girls team. And if we reach our goal of twelve teams, we can host an FLL tournament in Michigan City and showcase the skills of our students to the community.”

Anyone interested in having a student join an FLL team, serving as a team Coach or Non-Engineering Mentor, or discussing funding opportunities to support the all-girl FLL teams can contact Kreighbaum at
Photos provided by Michigan City Robotics Team are as follows: