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Learning in Action with Lower School Robotics

May 13, 2020
By Kingsmen Website
Learning in Action with Lower School Robotics

We’ve all heard that jobs in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and math are projected to increase both in number and importance in the coming decades, and that such jobs are, on average, better-paying than non-STEM careers.  And we’ve all heard that robots are an increasingly important tool in fields as diverse as transportation, health care, and energy.

Even so, according to lower school teachers at CHS, our robotics program is about something more fundamental and universal than future job prospects.  Here, robotics helps students to think in new ways, solve complex problems, and collaborate – all twenty-first century learning skills – while having fun in the process!

Robots in kindergarten

During Winterim Events and STEM Friday afternoons, CHS kindergarteners get a beginner's look at the world of coding.  They work with two robots that help them to learn the basic concepts involved in writing simple code.  

One, the Beebot, is a small bee-shaped robot that can follow a series of commands input through a group of buttons on the top of the robot.  Through exploration and discovery, the children learn that everything they want a robot to do must be instructed, or programmed, into the bot.  Students work together in teams or pairs and discover for themselves the basic “rules” of the Beebot.  “There is always a hum of excitement and energy when we work with the robots,” says Lilian Mogle, kindergarten teacher.

Ozobot is a more advanced robot with more sophisticated functions and therefore more complicated coding.  The kindergartners love the challenge of trying to understand the robot's advanced abilities, according to Mrs. Mogle.  “The classroom is filled with discussions and ‘aha’ moments whenever we work with robots.  For many of the children, these activities are a first experience with robots or the concepts of coding.”

Fifth grade engineers

Fifth graders use the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots, advancing their programming skills in order to control a wide range of functions such as moving in various directions, stopping, turning at different degrees of angles, recognizing a color, repeating a loop, and so forth.  Through careful programming and problem solving, students can accomplish tasks such as navigating their bot through an obstacle course or clearing objects from an area. 

Typically, the culmination activity of the program is a Space Challenge involving students’ choice of seven different quests.  “The students absolutely love Lego Robotics as it's a fun way for them to use math and critical thinking skills to solve problems with their partners and teams,” reflects fifth grade teacher Mrs. Marshall.

Taking it further in middle school

Our middle school students work with VEX Robotics under the direction of Mrs. Cosgrove, mastermind of CHS’s robotics program.  This year, students competed in their first-ever VEX Robotics Tournament, and came away with the Judge’s Award for perseverance and grit.  As students progress through our lower school robotics program, Mrs. Cosgrove is hopeful that the ranks of competitive roboticists will grow in the middle school – and, with them, the skills, teamwork, and sense of accomplishment that robotics helps to cultivate.