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 eleven-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.
About Highland Springs: Highland Springs, managed and developed by Erickson Living, is a retirement community that provides worry-free living for America's seniors-the country's fastest growing population segment. Erickson Living's financial value and predictable monthly service fees provide residents across the country financial peace of mind. Comprehensive health and wellness services, integrated into our continuum of care, lead to demonstrated resident benefits. A robust complement of resident programs and facilities promote an engaged, fulfilling lifestyle that is reflected in resident satisfaction levels that exceed the industry average. For more information, please visit www.ericksonliving.com.