Eighteen fifth-graders are members of the Springs Ranch robotics club, wherein they meet weekly to research the field of robotics. Meetings culminate in the production of an actual robot which the students will navigate through an obstacle course.
The club, now in its second year, continues to skyrocket in popularity. This year’s roster was full within the first ten minutes it was made available. Lani Bryan, fifth grade teacher, credits the “cool” factor as the reason for the adoration of the club “[Students] just think it’s very cool to learn about robots,” she said.
The club’s purpose is to peaks students’ interest in engineering and computer science careers. Bryan said that an added benefit is the encouragement of female students to participate in the growing science, technology, engineering and math fields, which are predominantly occupied by male professionals. “I love to work with LEGOs,” said fifth-grader Madison Nahrgang, 10. “When I hard there was a robotics club I was really excited about it.”
There is also an educational focus to the club. Members study the field of robotics and participate in various activities using Project Lead The Way applications on iPads. This includes researching the history of the machines and their use in society. They also use the tablets to view instructions for the robot they will build in small groups.
“It’s not just building randomly,” said Celeste Blake, gifted and talented teacher. “We’re giving them a purpose.” Once their robot is completed, members will attempt to maneuver it through an obstacle course, and they will need to make adjustments to the basic model in order to successfully complete the challenge. Scott Nicholson, 10, said that he enjoyed working through all the steps of assembling the robot.
“It lets kids of all levels have a chance to learn,” said Blake, noting that the field becomes more competitive as students enter higher grade levels.