It sounds easy, but when a Junior High club builds robots with Legos, the challenges of getting the robot to follow commands requires teamwork and problem solving.
For six weeks, students at Minook Junior High School worked on programming the robots. They were assisted by club sponsor Kim Pittinaro and Aux Sable engineer Chuck Huddleston. According to Huddleston, who works for Aux Sable Liquid Products, when students first joined the club they didn't know how to build a robot or anything about robotics. He gave them 10 to 20 minutes of instruction weekly, as part of the Three Rivers Education Partnership that partners business and education.
Students were given a Lego Mindstorms kit, with instructions on how to build the robot. Some students opted to not follow the instructions, and let their imaginations take over in the design of the robot. “We built ours with the book,” eighth grade student Megan Chiappetta said of her, and her partner, Peyton Kellinger’s robot. “I like using instructions to build things, and really the physical appearance doesn’t matter.”
Most agreed that the most difficult part of the activity was in programming the robots to move, take directions, and accomplish certain motions required to complete a course. “Programming was the hardest part,” seventh-grade student Sarah Engle said. “We’ve had problems, but with the teachers help it’s been easier, he takes the time to explain it to us.”
All projects were judged by Chris Fonck of Aux Sable Liquid Products as part of the Three Rivers Education Project. Students had the opportunity to work in partnership with business and with each other.
One of the objectives of the partnership between business leaders and schools was to give students a way to participate in after school activities that wee not sports related. The intent of the club was to foster experimentation and interest in science, according to Huddleston. More than 75 students expressed interest in the club, but membership was limited to 20 children.